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Religion Library: Baha'i

Sacred Texts

Written by: Moojan Momen

Once 'Abdu'l-Baha became leader of the Baha'i community, he had less time to write full-length books, and most of his writings from this later period of his life are responses to the numerous letters that he received from his followers in the East and, increasingly, in the West, and also from scholars and intellectuals in the Middle East, India, and the West. It is estimated that he wrote some 16,000 separate works and letters.

Baha'is also hold his recorded talks, whether to private groups or at public meetings, in high esteem. One collection of these, called Some Answered Questions , is particularly revered among Baha'is; in it he deals with many religious and social questions and he himself approved the text of the book. It has thus achieved the status of scripture. The other recorded talks and conversations of 'Abdu'l-Baha do not have the status of scripture, but are frequently used by Baha'is since they often contain clear and concise statements of the Baha'i teachings. It is important to note that only the writings of the central figures of the Baha'i Faith (either written by themselves or dictated to secretaries) have the authority of being considered scripture. All other talks and oral reports of the actions and conversations of the Bab, Baha'u'llah, and 'Abdu'l-Baha are not considered authoritative.

The writings of Shoghi Effendi, 'Abdu'l-Baha's successor, are not considered as Baha'i scripture in the sense of having spiritual power but are considered authoritative interpretations of the Baha'i scriptures. As with 'Abdu'l-Baha and Baha'u'llah, most of the Shoghi Effendi's extant corpus of writings consists of letters. While his early letters are mainly to individuals, as his ministry progressed he communicated more with the Baha'i institutions that he was establishing throughout the world, advising them on how to conduct their affairs in accordance with Baha'i principles. He also wrote a full-length book, God Passes By, interpreting the history of the Baha'i Faith. His other main area of writing consisted of translations of Baha'u'llah's writings. He translated three of Baha'u'llah's books and also two compilations of extracts from the writings of Baha'u'llah.

Study Questions:
     1.    What writings are regarded by Baha’is as part of their scripture and are they all regarded as binding?
     2.    Describe some of the main writings of the Bab.
     3.    What were the particular subjects that Baha’u’llah wrote about in each of the stages of his exile (Baghdad, Edirne, and ‘Akka)?
     4.    List the main books of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and describe something of the contents of each.


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