Introducing Kitáb-i-Badí'

By Nader Saiedi

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #20
Louhelen Bahá'í School: Michigan, USA
October 9–12, 1998
(see list of papers from #20)

    Kitáb-i-Badí' (The New Book) is one of the most important writings of Bahá'u'lláh which should be considered as his main apologia. This wonderful book is revealed in Adrianople and responds to the distortions, objections, and accusations of Mirzá Mihdí-ye-Rashtí, influenced by Siyyid Muhammad, against Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'u'lláh defends his station and refutes the arguments raised against his revelation.

    In this lecture I will first discuss the date, style, and some of the historical implications of the revelation of Kitáb-i-Badí'. Next I will outline the objections and accusations raised in Mirzá Mihdi's letter. The subsequent main section of the talk will explicate Bahá'u'lláh's refutation of those objections. I will show that similar to Kitáb-i-Iqán, Kitáb-i-Badí' responds to the objections against the Manifestation of God at two distinct levels, one methodological ,the other substantive. The methodological discourse is considered by Bahá'u'lláh as his main message and argument and the core message of all revelations. This same methodological discourse is the heart of the Hidden Words, Iqán, and Kitáb-i-Badí'. Bahá'u'lláh's methodological discourse is simultaneously a discussion of the conditions of spiritual journey, hermeneutics, and covenant. In this sense we can understand all the writings of Bahá'u'lláh as an explication of the same methodological principle which is most clearly visible in Kitáb-i-Badí'. Consequently, Kitáb-i-Badí' can be considered as the key for understanding other writings of Bahá'u'lláh as well. After discussing in detail both the methodological and substantive arguments of Bahá'u'lláh I will conclude the discussion by explicating Bahá'u'lláh's own concluding remarks of his text which is an affirmation of his hermeneutics and covenant. Mirzá Mehdi's arguments can be summarized in seven parts:
    1. Bahá'u'lláh's claim is based upon esoteric interpretation (Ta'vil) of Báb's writings and entirely ignores the explicit and categorical (Muhkamát) aspects of Bayán.

    2. Bahá'u'lláh's claim to be the Promised One cannot be true because according to the Bayán the next Manifestation would not appear before the completion and perfection of the cause of Bayán.

    3. According to the Bayán, Yahyá Azal is the vicegerent of the Báb, and he is praised by him by highest titles which are the Names of God.

    4. Bahá'u'lláh's claim cannot be true because he is either the return of the Primal Point or is subordinate to him. The first is not possible, the second makes him subordinate to Yahyá.

    5. The references to Bahá in Bayán is general and not related to the person of Bahá who happens to have the same name.

    6. Bahá'u'lláh supports his claim by claiming to reveal the verses of God (Ayát). However, revelation of verses is not adequate evidence and proof. Every one can bring verses.

    7. Bahá'u'lláh has been motivated by the desire for power and material comfort.

    These distortions are responded through both epistemological and substantive arguments.

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