Sacred Writings

A unique feature of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh is the authenticity of its revealed Word. These words of Bahá’u’lláh, which were recorded and authenticated at the time they were revealed, form the foundation of the Bahá’í Faith.

The quantity of writings produced by Bahá’u’lláh is vast. Bahá’u’lláh Himself estimated that His collected works would amount to more than 100 volumes, if all were bound in a series of books.

The writings are characterized by a wide range of styles. Bahá’u’lláh wrote in both Arabic and Persian, showing superb mastery of both languages. Some works speak with the voice of God, in lofty and beautiful prose. Others are direct statements on morality and ethics. Others are mystical and poetic works. Many are letters to individuals, known as tablets. Many of these remain as yet untranslated. His central works, however, have been translated into most of the world’s major languages, and selections of His writings have been translated into more than 800 tongues.

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. He describes this work 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 Kitáb-i-Íqán (The Book of Certitude). In laying out the entire panorama of the divine purpose, the Íqán deals with the great questions that 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 the Seven Valleys. In poetic language, this mystical work traces the stages of the soul’s journey to union with its Creator.

Foremost among Bahá’u’lláh’s writings is the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (the Most Holy Book). Revealed during the darkest days of His imprisonment in ‘Akká, the Aqdas, the “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 is ongoing. The standard for the work of translation into English was established by Shoghi Effendi, who headed the Bahá’í Faith from 1921 to 1957. He was educated at Oxford University, and his translations reflect not only a brilliant command of the English language, but also an authoritative exposition of the texts’ meaning.

In undertaking the challenge of finding an English style that would faithfully convey the exalted and emotive character of Bahá’u’lláh’s use of Persian and Arabic, Shoghi Effendi chose a form of English that echoes the King James Version of the Bible. In accordance with this style, he also chose 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 made 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 style in which Bahá’u’lláh wrote in Persian and Arabic. Accordingly, Shoghi Effendi’s translations, and not the Arabic or Persian originals, are used as the basis for translation into other Western languages.

Visit the Bahá’í Reference Library to view selected writings by Bahá’u’lláh and the other central figures of the Bahá’í Faith.

* Excerpted from The Bahá’ís, a publication of the Bahá’í International Community.