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Bahá'í literature, like much religious text, covers a variety of topics and forms, including scripture and inspiration, interpretation, history and biography, introduction and study materials, and apologia. Sometimes considerable overlap can be observed in a particular text.

The Bahá'í Faith relies extensively on its literature. Literacy is strongly encouraged so that believers may read the texts for themselves. In addition doctrinal questions are routinely addressed by returning to primary works.

Much of the early works of the religion were in the form of letters to individuals or communities. These are termed tablets and have been collected into various folios by Bahá'ís over time. Today, the Universal House of Justicemarker still uses letters as a primary method of communication.

Literary forms

Generally speaking, the literary form of a particular book can generally be observed by noting the author and/or title.

Scripture, inspiration and interpretation

Timeline Bahá'í writings
>1844 - 1850 The Báb
>1852 - 1892 Bahá’u’lláh
>1892 - 1921 `Abdu'l-Bahá
>1921 - 1957 Shoghi Effendi
>1963 - present Universal House of Justice

Bahá'ís believe that the founders of the religion, The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, received revelation directly from God. As such their works are considered divinely inspired. These works are considered to be "revealed text" or revelation.

`Abdu'l-Bahá was appointed by Bahá'u'lláh to be his successor and authorized him to interpret the religion's "revealed text." The works of `Abdu'l-Bahá are therefore considered authoritative directives and interpretation, as well as part of Bahá'í scripture. He, along with The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh, is considered one of the "Central Figures" of the religion.

Likewise Shoghi Effendi's interpretations and directives are considered authoritative, but are not considered to expand upon the "revealed text", or to be scripture.

In the Bahá'í view, the Universal House of Justicemarker does not have the position to interpret the founders' works, nor those of `Abdu'l-Bahá or Shoghi Effendi. However, it is charged with addressing any question not addressed in those works. As such its directives are considered authoritative, as long as they are in force (the Universal House of Justice may alter or revoke its own earlier decisions as needed), and are often collected into compilations or folios.

The works of the Central Figures, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice taken together are the canonical texts of the Baha'i Faith.

A special category of works consist of the prayers of the Central Figures. These were often included in original letters and have been collected into various prayer books. Bahá'u'lláh's Prayers and Meditations is a significant volume. As Bahá'ís are to pray, meditate, and study sacred scripture daily, these books are common.

History and biography

Shoghi Effendi's only book, God Passes By, is a central text covering the history of the faith from 1844 to 1944. Nabil-Zarandi's Dawn Breakers covers the Bábí period extensively through to Bahá'u'lláh's banishment from Persia in 1853.

Ruhiyyih Rabbani's Ministry of the Custodians details the interregnum between Shoghi Effendi's death in 1957 and the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963.

Other authors have revisited the early periods of the religion in the Middle East or addressed historical periods in other places. Some of these contain significant amounts of biographical data and can be considered biographies. Notably, Balyuzi's and Taherzadeh's works have focused on the history and biographies of the central figures of the religion and their significant contemporaries.

Introduction and study materials

One of the earliest introductory texts available in English is Esslemont's Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era. This book, originally published in 1923, has undergone several revisions over time to update, correct, and clarify its contents though `Abdu'l-Bahá was able to personally review several of it's chapters. More than sixty years later, it remains in the top ten of cited Bahá'í books.

Several other introductory texts are available. Hatcher & Martin's The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion, Momen's A Short Introduction to the Bahá'í Faith, and Smith's The Bahá'í Religion are some examples.

Of considerable importance to the Bahá'í community world-wide is the Ruhi series of study materials inspired, and largely produced, by the Bahá'í community of Colombiamarker. These books form the core texts used in "Study Circles" and "Training Institutes" by Bahá'í communities around the world.


A few of Bahá'u'lláh's works may classify as apologia. In addition to being significant doctrinal works, his Kitáb-i-Íqán (Book of Certitude) and Epistle to the Son of the Wolf address both Islamic and Bahá'í audiences.

During Bahá'u'lláh's lifetime, both Nabíl-i-Akbar and Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Gulpáygání were noteworthy Islamic scholars who accepted the religion. Nabíl-i-Akbar was well versed in, and wrote on Islamic issues. Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl wrote extensively on both Christian and Islamic apologia, most notably in his book The Brilliant Proof.

While Townshend's Christ and Bahá'u'lláh may also be regarded as an apologetic response to Christian concerns, Udo Schaefer, et al.'s Making the Crooked Straight is a decidedly apologetic response to Ficicchia's polemical Der Bahá'ísmus - Religion der Zukunft? (Bahá'ísm – Religion of the future?), a book which was published and promoted by the Evangelische Zentralstrelle für Weltanschauungsfragen (Central Office of the Protestant Church for Questions of Ideology) in the 1980s. This organization has since revoked its affiliation with Ficicchia and now recognizes the Bahá'í Faith as an important partner in inter-religious dialogue.


Most Bahá'í literature, including all the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, was originally written in either Persian or Arabic. English translations use the characteristic Bahá'í orthography developed by Shoghi Effendi to render the original names. His work was not just that of a translator, as he was also the designated interpreter of the writings, and his translations are used as a standard for current translations of the Bahá'í writings.

Authenticity and authority

The question of the authenticity of given texts is of great concern to Bahá'ís. As noted, they attach considerable importance to the writings of whom they consider to be authoritative figures. The primary duty of the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice and the International Bahá'í Library is the collection, cataloguing, authentication, and translation of these texts.

By way of comparison, "pilgrims' notes" are items, or sayings, attributed to the central figures but have not been authenticated. While these may be inspirational, these are not considered authoritative. Some of `Abdu'l-Bahá's collected talks (e.g. `Abdu'l-Bahá in London, Paris Talks, and The Promulgation of Universal Peace.) may fall into this category, but are awaiting further authentication. The Star of the West, published in the United States from 1910 to 1924, contains many pilgrim's notes and unauthenticated letters of `Abdu'l-Bahá's.

There is no Bahá'í corollary to Islamic Hadith; in fact, Bahá'ís do not consider Hadith authoritative.

The Bahá'í community seeks to expand the body of authenticated and translated texts. The 1992 publication of the English translation of Bahá'u'lláh The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and the more recent Gems of Divine Mysteries (2002), The Summons of the Lord of Hosts (2002), and The Tabernacle of Unity (2006) are significant additions to the body of work available.

At the same time there is concerted effort to re-translate, edit, and even redact works that are not authenticated. For example, `Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy, published in 1916, was not reprinted at the direction of Shoghi Effendi. Also, early editions of Esslemont's Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era contained several passages that could not be authenticated, or were incorrect. These have been reviewed and updated in subsequent editions. This practice has been criticized by observers, but is considered an integral part of maintaining the integrity of the texts.

Bábí texts are proving very difficult to authenticate, despite the collection of a variety of documents by E.G. Browne in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. Browne's principle correspondents were Azalis whom he considered to be the genuine followers of the Báb. In addition to the difficulties of collecting documents at such a distance — Browne was at Cambridge — was the widespread Azali practice of Taqiyya (Dissimulation), or concealing one's beliefs. Browne appears to have been unaware of this. In addition to the difficulties of collecting reliable manuscripts, Azali taqiyya had the effect of rendering many early Bábí documents unreliable afterwards, as Azali Bábís would often alter and falsify Bábí teachings and history.

In contrast, dissimulation was condemned by Bahá'u'lláh and was gradually abandoned by the early Bahá'ís.

Select bibliography

The below list is not complete. William P. Collins, in his Bibliography of English-language Works on the Bábí and Bahá'í Faiths, 1844-1985, gives a list of 2,819 items, which includes multiple editions.

For ease, the bibliography is sub-divided by author.



    • Many of the above are collections but there are estimated to be over 15,000 texts archived, and over 30,000 possibly written in total.

Báb, The


    • Over 7000 tablets and other works have been collected of an estimated 15,000 texts. However only a relative few have been translated and catalogued.

Central Figures: prayer books

Central Figures and Shoghi Effendi: compilations

The Universal House of Justice has prepared several compilations of extracts from the Central Figures and Shoghi Effendi.

Shoghi Effendi

Universal House of Justice and its agencies

These are original works of the Universal House of Justice and its agencies as distinct from compilations.

Other authors

Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Gulpáygání

Balyuzi, H.M.

Bahiyyih Khánum

Esslemont, J.E.

Momen, Moojan

Re-issued in 2008 as


Rabbani, Rúhíyyih

Schaefer, Udo

Sears, William

Smith, Peter

Taherzadeh, Adib

Townshend, George


  • .

  • .


See also


  1. The majority of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s writings are from the period 1892 – 1921, while a few have an earlier date: Secret of Divine Civilization (1875), A Traveller’s Narrative (1886) and his commentary on ‘I was a Hidden Treasure’.
  2. , Table 4: Most cited Bahá'í books, 1988-1993.
  3. &
  4. For example, the problems with the version of the Nuqtatu'l-Kaf translated and published in 1910 by E.G. Browne are noted by MacEoin ( ), and addressed by Balyuzi ( ) and Cole ( ) who notes that material on Subh-i-Azal (Mirza Yahya) was likely added to that manuscript in 1864.


External links

These sites focus on Bahá'í texts and related documents: These sites contain online or downloadable searchable databases of collected world religious works. English and French language versions contain extensive Bahá'í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, and other religious texts. Large libraries of Bahá'í texts are available in other, generally European, languages:
  • Online. Sponsored privately. Includes several European and Japanese language Bahá'í texts.
  • Holy Writings Search Engine Online. Sponsored by the Association for Bahá'í Studies, German-speaking Europe.
  • Ocean Downloadable. Sponsored privately.

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