Oct 19, 2016

The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha – by Amin Banani

The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha are the fruit of more than half a century of prolific labour from His early twenties to the seventy-eighth and final year of His life. Their full volume is as yet unknown; and much remains to be done in gathering, analyzing, and collating His literary legacy.

His Writings consist of personal correspondence, general tablets, tablets on specific themes, books, prayers, poems, public talks, and recorded conversations. Approximately four-fifths of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Writings are in Persian; the rest -- with the exception of a very small number of prayers and letters in Turkish -- are in Arabic. ‘Abdu’l-Baha was both fluent and eloquent in these three languages. Transcriptions of His extemporaneous speeches are often indistinguishable from His Writings. In a culture that placed a high premium on rhetoric ‘Abdu’l-Baha was recognized by friend and foe, Arab and Persian, as a paragon of distinctive style and eloquence.

It is the intent of this article to touch upon the character of that style and to present an overview of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Writings in various genres and categories. Discussion of the language and style is inherently limited, as it must be attempted across twin barriers of culture and tongue; the attempt at categorization is necessarily arbitrary and is meant to serve only as a catalogue. Obviously any number of criteria, such as chronological, thematic and linguistic, can provide different sets of categories. Furthermore, some works cited as examples of certain categories could easily be put under others.

‘Abdu’l-Baha was, of course, not a prophet and at no time claimed to have received direct revelation from God. But the Centre of the Covenant of Baha’u’llah, and the appointed Interpreter of His Revelation, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’is believe, was divinely inspired and guided. His Writings, therefore, constitute for the Baha’is at once a part and an interpretation of their Scriptures.