KETĀB-E IQĀN

KETĀB‑E IQĀN (Book of Certitude), a major work of Mirzā Ḥosayn-ʿAli Nuri Bahāʾ-Allāh (d. 1892; q.v.) in defense of the religious claims of Sayyed ʿAli-Mo­ḥam­mad the Bāb (q.v.). The Ketāb‑e iqān (abbreviated in citations here as KI), a Persian text of about two hundred pages, is fundamentally, as its author Bahāʾ-Allāh once stated, a Babi “proof-offering tablet” (lawḥ‑e estedlāliya), that is, a treatise written in proof of the messianic claims and religious doctrines of the Bāb (Fāżel Māzandarāni, I, p. 276). He also reckoned it a veritable “lord of books” (sayyed‑e kotob) and called it divine revelation when he wrote in a scriptural tablet to Mirzā Abu’l-Fażl Golpāyegāni (d. 1914; q.v.), “The Ketāb‑e iqān is in reality the lord of books and issued forth from the Most Elevated Pen (Qalam‑e Aʿlā [i.e., Bahāʾ-Allāh]) at the commencement of this supreme theophany (ẓohur‑e aʿẓam)” (Bahāʾ-Allāh, 1972, VII, p. 167; see also KI, p. 198, tr., 1968, p. 257). It dates from the latter years of its author’s occupying a leading role within the exilic Baghdad-centered Babi community, about a dozen years after the execution of the Bāb in Tabriz in 1850.

Bahāʾ-Allāh composed the Ketāb‑e iqān primarily in response to questions about the apparent non-fulfillment of messianic and related eschatological signs in the Bāb and his emergent pristine religion (al-din al-ḵāleṣ; Bāb, Qayyum al-asmāʾ 1:5). The questions were posed by a maternal uncle of the Bāb, named Ḥājj Mirzā Sayyed Mo­ḥam­mad (d. 1876), known as the Ḵāl‑e Akbar (the elder/senior uncle). While visiting the shrine cities of Iraq (see ʿATABĀT) with a brother around 1278/​1862, through the intermediary of Ḥājj Sayyed Jawād Karbalāʾi (d. ca. 1300/​1882), he was able to meet Bahāʾ-Allāh in Baghdad and pose several written questions to him (KI, tr. 1907, introd., pp. vii-viii; Qazvini, p. 15; Fāżel Māzandarāni, I, p. 159; Taherzadeh, pp. 157-58). Bahāʾ-Allāh’s reply to these questions was said in several Bahai sources to have been very speedily “sent down,” or “revealed,” in one or two days (Shoghi Effendi, 1970, p. 138; Balyuzi, 1980, p. 164). The response of the Ketāb‑e iqān persuaded the Bāb’s uncle to accept the elevated messianic claims of both the Bāb and ultimately Bahāʾ-Allāh also as his successor.

The questions of the then skeptical uncle were largely centered upon the following Shiʿite Islamic themes which seemed to him unfulfilled or outwardly unrealized: (1) the latter-day Yawm al-qiāma (Day of Resurrection) and such associated events as “judgement,” “reward,” and “punishment”; (2) the problem of the identity of the Twelfth Imam and the disparity between the Bāb’s claims and the heritage of Shiʿite traditions; (3) the contradictions between the non-literal exegesis of the Bāb and the straightforward heritage of Shiʿite doctrinal tradition; and (4) the non-fulfillment of messianic expectations associated with the expected Qāʾem and his followers engaging, for example, in eschatological jihad-type activities centered at Kufa (Fayżi, pp. 40-41; MacEoin; Balyuzi, 1991, pp. 164-65). Although Sayyed Mo­ḥam­mad was the primary addressee in the Ketāb‑e iqān, Bahāʾ-Allāh also specifically addressed a range of other individuals and groups, including Shiʿite Muslims, Šayḵis (Shaykhis), various Babi groups as the “people of the Bayān (Exposition),” and, in a few places, all of humankind, in a manner reminiscent of the style of the Bāb himself (KI, p. 72, tr., 1968, p. 93; Buck, 1995, p. 14).

Date of the text. The exact date of the writing of the Ketāb‑e iqān remains unknown, but it is clear from internal and historical evidence that it was written in the early 1860s, a year or so prior to Bahāʾ-Allāh’s claiming an exalted theophanic-messianic status when he initiated the Bahai religion in April-May 1863. The dating to 1861-62 seems most likely in light of a reference in the Ketāb‑e iqān (p. 134, tr., 1968, p. 172) to an “eighteen-year” period of Babi persecution. When computed in terms of the Babi calendar, this results in 1278/​1861-62 (1260+18 = 1278 AH; see KI, p. 176, tr., 1968, p. 226; Dahāji, p. 41). Consequently, another reference in the Ketāb‑e iqān (p. 195, tr. 1968, p. 251) to the Islamic year 1280 (1863-64) can hardly be taken literally. Edward G. Browne ultimately dated the Ketāb‑e iqān to 1278/​1861-62 (Browne, 1889, p. 945; idem, 1909, p. 302), as did Shoghi Effendi (Rabbani, 1970, p. 138; idem, 1981, p. 429; Buck, 1995, pp. 7-12, 38-90).

The reference in the Ketāb‑e iqān to previously composed scriptural tablets (alwāḥ‑e masṭura-ye qabl; KI, p. 15, tr., 1968, p. 19) is a clear allusion to Bahāʾ-Allāh’s slightly earlier Arabic Jawāher al-asrār, a work that according to a manuscript colophon dates to the Babi year al-bahi, which, according to the abjad system, computes to the Babi year 17, or 1277/​1860-61 (Bahāʾ-Allāh, ms. colophon in INBA, XLVI, p. 40). This again suggests a Ketāb‑e iqān date of 1278/​1862-63, as do most other Bahai sources, although this may have to be revised in the light of a letter of Sayyed Mo­ḥam­mad about his meeting with Bahāʾ-Allāh, apparently written in 1861 (Fayżi, pp. 42-43; Buck, 1998; Rabbani, 1999).

Structure and contents. Following indications in the original text for the English translation, Ali Kuli Khan and Shoghi Effendi, not inappropriately, divided the text into two parts (KI, part 1, pp. 2-72, tr., 1968, pp. 3-93; part 2, pp. 72-199, tr., 1968, pp. 95-257). At times part one has a very close relationship to the Jawāher al-asrār, while sections within part two echo portions of the Bāb’s Persian Dalāʾel‑e sabʿa. The issues within Shiʿite messianism that led to the writing of the Ketāb‑e iqān were not dissimilar to those raised when Bahāʾ-Allāh composed the Jawāher al-asrār for Sayyed Yusof Sedehi (Eṣfahāni), a one-time resident of Karbalāʾ and pupil of the Shiʿite marjaʿ‑e taqlid (source of emulation) Shaikh Mortażā Anṣāri (d. 1281/​1864; q.v.). Both of these major works of Bahāʾ-Allāh open with a consideration of the reasons for the rejection of past prophets in order to convince the reader of the falsity of anti-Babi sentiments and to argue against literalistic eschatological expectations as mapped out by many relevant Shiʿite traditions (KI, pp. 1-5, tr., 1968, pp. 3-6; Bahāʾ-Allāh, 1965, III, pp. 4-31). As an illustration of the way that “throughout all ages and centuries” Messengers of God have, like the Bāb, been subjected to “heinous cruelties,” Bahāʾ-Allāh provides a brief account of the prophetic missions of the rejected pre-Islamic figures Noah, Hud, Ṣāleḥ, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus (KI, pp. 5-15, tr., 1907, pp. 7-19). The account of these maligned prophets is derived from accounts in the Qurʾān as well as from the narratives of the Qeṣaṣ al-anbiāʾ and certain early sections of the Rawżat al-ṣafā of Mirḵᵛānd (d. 1428).

Aspects of these brief sketches of the prophets opening the Ketāb‑e iqān are carefully, though subtly, related to the Bāb so as to incline Sayyed Mo­ḥam­mad to a positive view of his mission. The aborted and largely unsuccessful mission of Noah, for example, parallels that of the early mission of the Bāb, who had canceled an 1845 Babi jihad-oriented congregation in Karbalāʾ (Qayyum al-asmāʾ 1:29; Bāb, “Prayer in Reply to Questions,” fols. 173-75), in view of an inspired realization that the Divine Will had been altered through badāʾ (a Shiʿite principle for rationalization of divine or Imam’s rulings when the emergence of new circumstances requires a change in an earlier ruling; see “BADĀʾ” in EI2 I, 1960, pp. 850-51). Bahāʾ-Allāh’s retelling of the Noah story in the Ketāb‑e iqān and what he has to say about the spiritual sovereignty of the crucified Jesus (KI, pp. 5-7, 102-5, tr., 1968, pp. 6-9, 132-35) strongly suggests the possibility of divine victory for the Bāb as the expected Qāʾem, despite his long imprisonment and his execution in 1850. Designed to modify the triumphalist messianism implicit in many Shiʿite prophetic Hadiths, others cited in the Ketāb‑e iqān picture the expected Qāʾem as a rejected figure whose Persian and other followers are to be severely persecuted (KI, pp. 190-193, tr., 1968, pp. 245-48). Among the writings of the Bāb referred to in the Ketāb‑e iqān are his early Qayyum al-asmāʾ (mid-1844), characterized as “the first, greatest, and mightiest of all Books,” and the Tafsir al-hā; (Exegesis on the [letter] ‘H’), both of which are cited in connection with the Bāb’s predictions of his own martyrdom for the sake of the future Babi messiah (KI, p. 180, tr., 1968, pp. 31-32).

The Bible, the Qurʾan, Hadith texts, and other literary citations. In the Ketāb‑e iqān, Bahāʾ-Allāh does not hesitate to cite the Bible in arguing for the truth of the prophethood of Mo­ḥam­mad and the Bāb. He denied the legitimacy of the charge of biblical taḥrif (distortion) and highlighted the need for the non-literal exegesis of its often abstruse, allegorically oriented eschatological predictions. Like Faḵr-al-Din Rāzi, Mo­ḥam­mad b. ʿAbd-al-Karim Šahrastāni, and others in Islamic history, Bahāʾ-Allāh rejected the notion of a complete textual corruption (taḥrif‑e naṣṣ) of the Bible and other divinely revealed sacred books. He preferred to speak of a widespread distortion of the meaning (taḥrif‑e maʿāni) of scriptures at the hands of ignorant and misdirected religious leaders. He saw scriptural taḥrif not primarily as a practice of concrete textual alteration (tabdil), but as a misplaced hermeneutic (KI, p. 57, tr., 1968, pp. 75-76). Biblical distortion was, he said, limited to only a few specific instances (KI, pp. 65-67, tr., 1968, p. 86; Bahāʾ-Allāh, 1965, III, p. 27).

Bahāʾ-Allāh refers to the Hebrew Bible only once in the Ketāb‑e iqān, in a paraphrased Islamo-biblical form, when he cites Isaiah 65:25 in Persian as a “well-known Tradition” (ḥadiṯ‑e mašhur; KI, p. 73, tr., 1968, pp. 113-14). As in the Jawāher al-asrār, he cites the New Testament more extensively than the Old Testament. In this respect he makes use of an Arabic Christian textual tradition very close, if not identical, to that printed in the 17th-century Paris and London Polyglot Bibles. The New Testament text published in these Polyglot Bibles was often reprinted in the West with revisions, one of which may have been presented to Bahāʾ-Allāh by missionaries or diplomats during his Baghdad years (Lambden, 2002, pp. 291-316).

Over thirty-five pages of part one of the Ketāb‑e iqān consist of a detailed “spiritual” interpretation of Matthew 24:29-31(a), in proof of the mission of Mo­ḥam­mad as the “return” of Christ (Bahāʾ-Allāh, 1965, III, pp. 4-31). Bahāʾ-Allāh does this so that the reader might adopt the non-literal hermeneutical position when weighing the Islamic predictions relating to the Bāb that he later cites in the Ketāb‑e iqān. Bahāʾ-Allāh’s quoting and paraphrasing New Testament texts in the Ketāb‑e iqān (e.g., Matt. 24:29 f., 2:2, 3:1-2; John 3:5b-7; Luke 9:60, Mark 2:3 f.), and his strong arguments against biblical taḥrif, led to the Bahais engaging in biblical interpretation in Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East, and more extensively in the West. In the Ketāb‑e iqān, the sacred texts revealed from age to age, namely the Torah (Hebrew Bible), the Enjil (Gospel[s]), the Qurʾān, and the Bayān (the main work by the Bāb), are the centerpieces of divine guidance. Veritable “cities” of the “Word of God,” they enshrine all good and must be forever available. A future such “Book” will be that of the Babi messiah man yoẓhero-hu Allāh (Him whom God shall make manifest) (KI, pp. 151-54, tr., 1968, pp. 196-200). Bahāʾ-Allāh subsequently claimed to be this latter figure and wrote perhaps 20,000 lawḥs (q.v.; scriptural tablets), some in the form of books of varying length.

Like the first two Šayḵi leaders and the Bāb, Bahāʾ-Allāh frequently refers to the Qurʾān and various traditions of the Twelver Shiʿite Imams as authoritative and divinely inspired sources. Aside from making numerous allusions to the Qurʾān, he explicitly cites the text itself approximately 135 times (Buck, 1995, p. 235). He interprets it in novel ways, occasionally registering or contesting standard tafsir (exegesis; KI, pp. 87-88, tr., 1968, pp. 115-16). For Bahāʾ-Allāh, the Qurʾān is a repository of all mysteries (Qurʾān 6:59), even containing, for example, a reference to Mo­ḥam­mad-Karim Khan Kermāni, his Šayḵi adversary, through his self-adopted title Aṯim (“Sinful”) and his miserable fate as the Karim (“Honorable”) eater at the infernal “tree of Zaqqum” (Qurʾan 44:43-44, 49; KI, p. 147, tr., 1968, p. 190).

Bahāʾ-Allāh several times in the Ketāb‑e iqān censured a literalist or fundamentalist mode of Qurʾānic exegesis. He taught that the sacred books have many levels of meaning, from the literal to scores of deep allegorical and even abstruse levels. Consonant with this he argues from Hadith that the Bāb vastly supplemented the totality of pre-Babi revelations (“two letters”) with the rest of the alphabetic “totality” (twenty-five of twenty-seven letters) of knowledge (KI, p. 189, tr., 1968, p. 243).

Aspects of certain Qurʾānic verses deemed motašābahāt (ambiguous, requiring exegesis), such as the first al-ḥorufāt al-moqaṭṭaʿa (isolated letters) alef-lām-mim (a-l-m), are succinctly interpreted by Bahāʾ-Allāh. It is said that in these specific letters “the mysteries of the Divine Ipseity” (howiya) are enshrined and that within their “shells” the pearls of the “Divine Unicity” (aḥadiya) are treasured up (KI, p. 156, 1968, pp. 202-3).

Bahāʾ-Allāh cites several standard as well as several less known Shiʿite Hadith compendia in the Ketāb‑e iqān. These sources include Abu Jaʿfar Mo­ḥam­mad Kolayni’s (d. 941; q.v.) al-Kāfi fi ʿelm al-din and its supplementary volumes Rawżat al-kāfi, Mo­ḥam­mad-Bāqer Majlesi’s (d. 1699-1700) Beḥār al-anwār (q.v.), the ʿAwālem al-ʿolum of Majlesi’s student ʿAbd-Allāh b. Nur-Allāh Baḥrāni (d. early 17th century), a rich repository of Shiʿite messianic Hadith for Babis, and the Yanbuʿ, possibly a compilation of Ebn Jonayd Eskāfi (d. 991; KI, p. 189, 1968, p. 243; Ešrāq Ḵāvari, 1970-72, IV, pp. 1866-67). An unspecified Ketāb al-arbaʿin (Book of the forty [Traditions]) is also cited in the Ketāb‑e iqān (p. 188, tr., 1968, p. 242) as is the Doʿāʾ al-nodba (Supplication of lamentation), a prayer included in various Shiʿite devotional compilations of Ebn Ṭāwus (d. 1226) and others (KI, p. 28, tr., 1968, p. 35). Additionally, for example, Traditions are relayed through Mofażżal b. ʿOmar Joʿfi (d. ca. 762-63) from Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq (d. ca. 765) and through Komayl b. Ziād (d. ca. 704) from Imam ʿAli b. Abi Ṭāleb (d. 661) about al-ḥaqiqa (truth, reality) (KI, p. 77, tr., 1968, pp. 102-3). Some of the more esoteric Hadiths cited in the Ketāb‑e iqān seem to have originated in the Mašāreq anwār al-yaqin of Rajab Borsi (d. ca. 1411), perhaps as mediated through early Šayḵi writings where unusual traditions are frequently cited and commented upon (see KI, p. 130, tr., 1968, pp. 167-68).

Bahāʾ-Allāh also refers to other literary sources in the Ketāb‑e iqān, such as the lengthy Persian Eršād al-ʿawāmm of Mo­ḥam­mad-Karim Khan Kermāni (d. 1871), which was published several times in the 1850s in Bombay and Tabriz. Bahāʾ-Allāh specifically mentions that he sought out and read parts of this book. He contrasts Kermāni’s listing of twenty-five or more branches of knowledge, often esoteric, allegedly necessary for fathoming the mysteries of the meʿrāj (ascension to Heaven) with an equal number of ethical hallmarks of spirituality necessary for the true seeker to enter the archetypal, certitude (iqān)-generating, Book-centered “City of God” (KI, pp. 152-54, tr., 1968, pp. 196-98). Renewed from age to age, this “City” is the source of all good and in the future will be the Book of the universal Babi messiah, man yoẓhero-hu Allāh (KI, pp. 152-55, tr., 1968, pp. 196-200). Bahāʾ-Allāh did not explicitly make this claim for himself in the Ketāb‑e iqān, where his focus was on the messianic identity and divine status of the Bāb, as indicated in many Shiʿite messianic traditions.

Bahāʾ-Allāh underlines the spiritual interpretation of the meʿrāj (ascent) of Mo­ḥam­mad in the Ketāb‑e iqān. This, in line with the sometimes non-literal interpretations proposed by various Shiʿite philosophers and mystics, including the first two Šayḵi leaders and the Bāb (cf. Qayyum al-asmāʾ, sura 68). He counters Karim Khan Kermāni’s corporeal (bā jesm) exegesis and denial of its spiritual (ruḥāni) interpretation in his Eršād al-ʿawāmm (Kermāni, p. 450). Like Mo­ḥam­mad, the “Lord of the meʿrāj,” the spiritual seeker should come to true understanding through purity of heart and soul unencumbered by such esoteric sciences as kimiā (alchemy) and simiā (gematria-related magic) reckoned essential by Kermāni (KI, pp. 144-45, tr., 1968, p. 186). For Bahāʾ-Allāh primacy should be given to non-literal (bāṭeni) levels to the meaning of the meʿrāj of Mo­ḥam­mad.

In the initially theological second part of the Ketāb‑e iqān, the incomprehensibility of the ultimate Godhead is underlined, as is the subordinate “divinity” of the great divine manifestations (maẓāher‑e elāhiya) who have the right to declare “I am God” (anā Allāh) (KI, p. 138, tr., 1968, p. 178). The great founder-Prophets of religion are distinct individuals but exhibit an essential spiritual oneness, such that they are all the alpha and the omega of Reality and could claim to be the spiritual persona or “return” of each other. Each could legitimately claim to be the “seal of the prophets.” The alleged “finality of prophet-hood” read by most Muslims into the ḵātam al-nabiyin (Qurʾān 33:40), for Bahāʾ-Allāh is indicative of Mo­ḥam­mad as the “acme of prophethood” and not his being the “seal of the prophets” as the last of them. Divine guidance through divine messengers had no beginning and will have no end.

As in the writings of the Bāb, Bahāʾ-Allāh interprets Qurʾānic references to the eschatological “encounter with God” (leqāʾ Allāh) as indications of a concrete meeting with the divine Person of the Manifestation of God (the Bāb) on the “Day of God,” which is equated with the era of the mission and religious dispensation of the Bāb (KI, pp. 107-10, tr., 1968, pp. 138-40). The Bāb’s call to humanity initiated the “Day of resurrection.” Like the Bāb, Bahāʾ-Allāh reinterpreted a good deal of Islamic apocalyptic eschatology; “life” and “death,” for example, are states of spirituality and materialistic unbelief, respectively, while individual “resurrection” is essentially a transition to true heavenly life. With the advent of the Bāb, the “dead” to truth are resurrected to new “life”; faith in him precipitates a new level of spiritual “life” consonant with a new era of divine revelation. A multiplicity of individual resurrections through faith in the Bāb constitutes the realization of the Yawm al-qiāma (the Day of Resurrection). The physically dead do not literally come alive again.

In arguing for the truth of the Bāb as the expected Shiʿite Qāʾem, Bahāʾ-Allāh cites some prophetic Hadiths and highlights the Bāb’s constancy in his messianic convictions, despite persecution, imprisonment, and eventual execution (KI, pp. 179-80, tr., 1968, pp. 230-32). He cited predictions from the Twelver Shiʿite Imams, which to him indicated the Bāb’s being the real 19th century persona and spiritual “return” of the expected Twelfth Imam. The Bāb came at the right time with twin Shiʿi-Šayḵi forerunners (nurayn‑e nayyerayn ‘twin shining lights’), the Arab born “Perfect Man” (ensān‑e kāmel; q.v.) Shaikh Aḥmad Aḥsāʾi (d. 1826; q.v.) and the Persian sage Sayyed Kāẓem Rašti (d. 1843; KI, p. 51, tr., 1968, p. 65). The Bāb came in the year “sixty,” understood as 1260 AH/1844, the year of the commencement of his religious mission. This, according to him, was predicted in a disclosure of Imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq to his disciple al-Mufażżal and cited, for example, in early Šayḵi literature (Aḥsāʾi, I/1, p. 83). For Bahāʾ-Allāh, this year “sixty” indicated “the year of the ẓohur ” (manifestation) of the Bāb as the “Ipseity of Light” (KI, p. 196, tr., 1968, pp. 253-54).

Such prophetic testimonials deemed fulfilled in the Ketāb‑e iqān led the Bāb’s uncle and many others to view the youthful Bāb as a Širāzi sayyed fit to be the expected Qāʾem who legitimately came at the right time with a “new book” and a “new law” within a new amr or religious cause. Throughout the Ketāb‑e iqān, Bahāʾ-Allāh argues that the Bāb was the Shiʿite universal messiah figure and that the onset of the Day of Resurrection had commenced in both a concrete and a spiritual sense with his call to humankind through Mollā Ḥosayn Bošruʾi (d. 1849), whom he refers to as the “locus of the radiance of the Sun of the [Babi] theophany.” This took place one thousand years after the disappearance around 260 AH of the son of Imam Ḥasan al-ʿAskari, traditionally reckoned the occulted Twelfth Imam (KI, p. 173, tr., 1968, p. 222).

Literary style and technical vocabulary. Edward G. Browne described the Ketāb‑e iqān as “a work of great merit, vigorous in style, clear in argument, cogent in proof, and displaying no slight knowledge of the Bible, Ḳurʾán, and Traditions” (Browne, 1889, p. 948). It is marked by clarity of style as well as exegetical-eisegetical depth and a richness of intertextual and mystical vocabulary. Its author frequently utilizes mystical and sometimes esoteric Shiʿite-Babi terminology in a lucid fashion. Bahāʾ-Allāh delights in the use of the interpretive genitive, which often lends poetical depth to the meaning, (e.g., bayżā-ye ʿerfān “white [hand] of gnosis,” reżwān‑e Enjil “paradise of the Gospel”; KI, pp. 8, 19, tr., 1968, pp. 11, 24).

As an example of the terminology and style of the text, one can cite the quasi-cosmological term sorādeq, used on ten occasions in the Ketāb‑e iqān. The term, in light of a Hadith cited by Majlesi and others, denotes a succession of pavilions around the divine throne, each specifically characterized by a name of God as expressed by a particular divine attribute such as glory (majd) and splendor-beauty (bahāʾ; Majlesi, LVIII, p. 43). Among the nine genitive phrases commencing with sorādeq is sorādeq al-ʿamāʾ (the beclouded pavilion) (KI, p. 76, tr., 1968, pp. 101-2) reminiscent of Ebn al-ʿArabi (q.v.) and the Bāb, who both made considerable use of the term ʿamāʾ and commented upon its source Hadith about the location of God “in a cloud” (fi’l-ʿamāʾ) before he fashioned the creation (Ṭabari, tr., I, pp. 206-7).

Manuscripts, editions, and translations. The original autograph manuscript of the Ketāb‑e iqān appears to be lost, though an early copy presented to Ḥājj Mirzā Sayyed Mo­ḥam­mad in the handwriting of ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ exists at the Bahai International Archives in Haifa (Israel). This manuscript copy has a few marginal corrections and a note in the handwriting of Bahāʾ-Allāh expressing his desire for martyrdom in the path of the Bāb and his wish to leave Baghdad (Fāżel Māzandarāni, I, p. 266; Taherzadeh, p. 158). In the entry “Iqān” in his Asrār al-āṯār, Mirzā Asad-Allāh Fāżel Māzandarāni mentions a second early manuscript dated 1280/​1863-64, which would appear to be that transcribed for Ḥājj Mirzā Ḥasan-ʿAli, the younger uncle (ḵāl‑e aṣḡar) of the Bāb. This manuscript is now in private hands, as is another important early manuscript (dated 1871) from the Bahai copyist Āqā Mirzā Āqā Rekābsāz Širāzi (d. 1288/​1871; Fāżel Māzandarāni, I, p. 268; Balyuzi, 1980, p. 164). Over the succeeding decades, scores of sometimes unsatisfactory manuscript copies of the Ketāb‑e iqān were made.

The first undated lithographed edition of the Ketāb‑e iqān most probably appeared in Bombay in the early 1880s (Buck, 1995, p. xviii). Aware of textual corruptions in manuscripts of the Ketāb‑e iqān, Bahāʾ-Allāh arranged for another Bombay printing in 1310/​1892-93 at the Naṣiri Press, owned by members of the Bāb’s family, in the hand of the famous calligrapher Mirzā Ḥosayn Eṣfāhāni, titled Moškin-qalam (d. ca. 1912; Fāżel Māzandarāni, I, p. 278; Buck, 1995, p. 106; digital reproduction available at http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/areprint/baha/G-L/I/iqan1893/iqan1893.htm). Later printings of the original text appeared in slightly revised editions such as the Cairo printings of 1900 and 1933-34. This latter revised edition has been several times reprinted in Tehran (1976), Germany (1980), and Karachi (1997). Anti-Babi-Bahaʾi attacks on the Ketāb‑e iqān include materials contesting the textual integrity and veracity of the Ketāb‑e iqān (e.g., Najafi, pp. 460-85; cf. Buck, 1995, pp. 18-36) and the truth of doctrines expounded therein. Other general attacks on this work include that of Shaykh ʿAbd-al-Salām, the Šayḵ-al-Eslām of Tbilisi, which was voluminously dealt with by the Bahai apologist Mirzā Abu’l-Fażl Golpāyegāni (d. 1914) in his Ketāb al-farāʾed (completed 1898).

Perhaps initiated by ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ after the Cairo 1900 printing of the Ketāb‑e iqān, the first European translation was most probably the 1904 printed English translation of Ali Kuli Khan (d. 1928), assisted by the American Bahai Howard MacNutt. Apparently later in the same year the first French translation was published by the early French Bahai Hippolyte Dreyfus (d. 1928) and Mirzā Ḥabib-Allāh Širāzi. Both of these translations were revised and reprinted many times. The far from literalistic, though for Bahais authoritative, English translation is that by Shoghi Effendi (d. 1957), which was first published in New York in 1931. This printing has been slightly revised and reprinted many times. It has also served as a basis for translations into other languages, although new translations direct from the original are also in progress in scholarly academic circles.

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(Sholeh Quinn and Stephen N. Lambden)

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