Course: The Kitáb-i-Íqán: An Introduction (2019)
Faculty Mentor: Christopher Buck
by Ladan Delpak
“I am related to the uncle of the Báb through my mom’s family tree. My mother’s mother descended from the uncle of the Báb in whose honor the Íqán was revealed and who lived as a merchant in the city of Shiraz; my mother’s father descended from the youngest uncle of the Báb. I was gifted a copy of the Íqán in 1980 by my aunt, who was a teacher of Bahá’í youth classes at the time. It is a gift I’ve cherished and was studying before I took the Wilmette Institute Íqán course in June 2019. That was the first Bahá’í book I owned and I always knew reading and studying the Íqán is a must for any follower of Bahá’u’lláh.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed this Wilmette Institute course and I continue my study of the Íqán which is, of course, not a one-time study. I continue to gain more understanding which I am sure will be a lifelong effort on my part. I was grateful that Dr. Buck provided so many additional resources to help us scratch the surface and start to see the layers of profound universal concepts which Bahá’u’lláh reveals in the Íqán when answering four very specific Islamic-themed questions put to him. One very pivotal concept and, in fact, the core of His Faith, is the examination of the concept of “Progressive Revelation,” which I gained insight into after this course and have been sharing with the friends in my community. Here is a little writeup.”
My impression of Qur’an 33:40 / Qur’an 33:44 analysis
Having been raised in the Shi’a Islam society of Iran for the first 14 years of my life, I can safely say that the idea of Progressive Revelation has not been fully understood by Muslims, given that Prophet Muhammad vaguely alluded to this principle but never explained it as clearly as did the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. Muslims generally believe that Muhammad’s rank is above all the previous Messengers and that He in fact is the last of Messengers. Here is the verse from the Qur’an that leads Muslims to firmly believe this.
Chapter 33 verse 40
Translation by Arberry: Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but the Messenger of God, and the Seal of the Prophets; God has knowledge of everything.
Of course, if you are a Bahá’í, the principle of Progressive Revelation is the undeniable truth at the core of your belief, and that God will never leave humanity alone without guidance through a Divine Educator. But what about Muhammad claiming to be the “Seal of the Prophets”? In the Íqán, Bahá’u’lláh dedicates a few paragraphs to clarifying this firmly established, but misunderstood concept. Two paragraphs, 181 and 182, stand out.
Reading the original text of the Íqán in Persian/Arabic side-by-side with Shoghi Effendi’s English translation made me realize not only what a masterful translator the Guardian was, but that his translation conveys the essence of the original revealed by the Manifestation of God.
It is in Paragraph 181 that Bahá’u’lláh states:
How strange! These people with one hand cling to those verses of the Qur’án and those traditions of the people of certitude which they have found to accord with their inclinations and interests, and with the other reject those which are contrary to their selfish desires. “Believe ye then part of the Book, and deny part?” How could ye judge that which ye understand not? Even as the Lord of being hath in His unerring Book, after speaking of the “Seal” in His exalted utterance: “Muhammad is the Apostle of God and the Seal of the Prophets,” hath revealed unto all people the promise of “attainment unto the divine Presence.”
He continues in Paragraph 182:
And yet, through the mystery of the former verse, they have turned away from the grace promised by the latter, despite the fact that “attainment unto the divine Presence” in the “Day of Resurrection” is explicitly stated in the Book.
Bahá’u’lláh leaves us, the readers, to find these verses in the Qur’an and to make our own discoveries. The Guardian points us to the first one: Qur’an 33:40.
The two resources that really helped me gain a deeper understanding of how Bahá’u’lláh unravels this mystery are:
1. Unsealing the “Seal of the Prophets” (BahaiTeachings.org article)
2. “Bahaʾis” Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān: Supplement (2016, Edited by Jane McAuliffe)
Chris Buck points to the fact that the Guardian translated the original but prevented any misunderstanding by adding one word that is not in the original. In Paragraph 182, “And yet, through the mystery of the former verse, they have turned away from the grace promised by the latter,” Shoghi Effendi added the word “verse,” which does not appear in the original Persian/Arabic text of the Íqán. Bahá’u’lláh implicitly invites us to find the “latter” verse of the Qur’an which Dr. Buck has discovered to be the following:
Chapter 33 verse 44
Translation by Arberry: Their greeting, on the day when they shall meet Him, will be ‘Peace!’ And He has prepared for them a generous wage.
The word (yalqawnhu) means they “will meet him.”
More accurately, in the Íqán Bahá’u’lláh reveals لقای جمال اوست (liqá-yi jamál-i oúst), which the Guardian translates as “attainment unto the divine Presence.” Bahá’u’lláh then continues: “… is meant attainment unto the presence of His Beauty in the person of His Manifestation.”
Bahá’u’lláh is clearly shedding light on the whole idea that Muhammad’s appearance is not the last time God will speak to humanity. Yes, He was the Seal of the Prophets but He was not the last Manifestation of God.
The implications of understanding this idea is revolutionary, especially for the Muslim community. In short: We will always need guidance; God will continually send a Divine Educator to manifest Himself; attaining God’s presence is in fact recognizing and accepting His Manifestation on the Day He appears.