The Kitab-i-Aqdas:
Questions of Structure and Style

By Diana Malouf

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #5
Bahá'í National Center: Wilmette, Illinois, USA
March 31 – April 2, 1995
(see list of papers from #5)

    Although the Kitáb-i-Aqdas has several common features which can compare with the Quríán particularly. it differs in several fundamental structural and stylistic elements from it. The Koran is comprised of, among other things, sermons, narratives, historical interpretations, and prophecies that have no counterpart in the Aqdas. Elements of style can also become elements of structure, but the Aqdas and Quríán do not always use the same elements, or in the same way. For example, both the Quríán and the Kitáb-i-Aqdas use rhetorical devices for emphasis, such as parallelism, repetition, and irregular syntax; however, only the Quríán uses metaphors and similes of punishment, such as images of fire, thirst, and heat, and images of reward, such as water, gardens, and fruit. These stylistic and imagistic devises reinforce the message and also act as a unifying force holding the works tightly together.

    Structurally, the Quríán is composed of suras, or chapters, arranged by length after Muhammad's death, which are composed of verses. The Aqdas is comprised of verses only, without division into chapters. The Quríán is also longer than the Aqdas; however, there are supplementary texts to the Aqdas but no such texts supplementary to the Quríán. The Qur'án is the one work Muhammad authored, whereas Bahá'u'lláhís corpus of texts numbers more than 15 1 000 works. Furthermore, the Aqdas must be viewed as the crowning gem of a larger corpus of works and it, as well, derives its unity not in isolation, but as part -of a larger unified body of work exhibiting certain similar features.

    Initially, though to Western eyes the Kitáb-I-Aqdas seems to have no strict linear rationality, there are many internal features that unify the text, such as its emotional tone, which in the Islamic literary system is the life of a text and without which it cannot persuade effectively. Other unftg features are the voice of the Speaker (God to humanity), the musicality of the text (rhythm, rhyme, assonance, alliteration), the beauty of the language, the diverse subject matter (the unexpectedness of the topic of a verse itself becomes a repetitive and unifying stylistic feature), the alteration of exalted universal spiritual verities and praises followed by earthly and particular laws (a constant repeating pattern that also unifies the text). The beginning and end of the Book, also are in balance. The exception is verses 187-190.

    Like the Quríán, the Aqdas is the germ of a civilization, in its case a world civilization, and as the Quríán produced a literary system, the Aqdas, too, shall engender a literary system of its own. which, no doubt, shall illustrate over time the dynamic principles observable in other literary systems around the world.

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