Elder & Miller Kitab-i-Aqdas reveals the truth about the Baha'i Faith (Free PDF download)

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This is the suppressed Elder & Miller translation of the Baha'i "Book of Laws."

It is a more honest and accurate translation than the one belatedly offered by the Baha'i administration 120 years late. The latter ("The Kitab-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book") contains obfuscations and distortions designed to protect the fortunes of the Baha'i Faith and preventing the book to cause a drastic falloff in membership, as the text reveals a great disparity between the original message of the founder and what later came to be sold as "The Baha'i Faith." The Elder translation is an important document in the continuing saga of Baha'i efforts to both obscure and alter their own original foundations and texts.

The Elder-Miller translation is an honest translation by two English orientalists and Arabic scholars, one of them an author of an Arabic grammar who had spent many years in Persia and interviewed early Baha'is and Babis. It is the first English translation.

Their agenda was to make available an important religious work of the east for the Royal Asiatic Society that was, unaccountably, still unavailable in the west. Thus their translation became the first translation available in the west. Earl elder remarks on this oddity in his preface:

"Anyone who studies Baha'ism learns very soon of the volume sacred to those who profess this religion and known as "The Most Holy Book." Of this book Baha in his Will said, "...reflect upon that which is revealed in my book the Aqdas." And his son and successor 'Abdu'l Baha said in his Will, "unto the Aqdas everyone must turn." Yet, strange to say, although the teachings of the Baha'is have been widely proclaimed in Great Britain and America, only fragments of al-Kitab al Aqdas have been translated previously into English."

This even though the original text is actually a rather short work. Thus Miller and Earl Elder, a scholar of Arabic and produce of an Arabic grammar, published the fist English translation instead of the Baha'is.

Though Elder-Miller's translation was published in 1961, western Baha'is were kept in the dark about its existence. I was an active Baha'i for 15 years and never heard of it. This was deliberate. The Baha'i leadership did not want rank-and-file members to read the Kitab-i-Aqdas. They considered it a problematic. Not because there were major faults in the translation, but because the content itself was something they did not want westerners to be able to read.

Elder and Miller were surprised that the ready market of Baha'is was not interested in their book and Baha'i publishing bodies would not carry it, even though they lacked their own version of their "Most Holy Book." Book suppression is common to Baha'i history. It has long been a habit of Baha'is to find, confiscate, and destroy books they deem to be adverse to their growth. (I recall going through the estate of a famous early Baha'i Ruth Moffet and finding many Baha'i suppressed books that she had removed from libraries over the years.) The early Baha'is also extirpated the writing of their ostensible lineage founder, the Bab. Baha'i book purging is one reason that hardcover copies of Elder & Miller's Aqdas are so rare today.

Kitab-i-Aqdas was long considered a problematic book by the Baha'i promoters in the west. The Baha'i administration, seeking to grow a Faith that was now a sales package for socialist-leaning intellectuals, continued to buy time.They hoped to create their own translations that would soften or obscure the content, while letting the Baha'i Faith develop and grow free of the damaging effect they knew the text would have. So they avoided publishing the a text of their own for a full 120 years after the book's creation by their founder. All other Baha'i works of significance were long available and this was ostensibly their central scripture. It's importance is obvious in its very title: "Book of Laws -- Most Holy Book." So this Elder-Miller translation was unwelcome to the Baha'i Administration who refrained from making their congregation aware of it.

The first approach the Baha'is took to suppressing the Kitab-i-Aqdas was, indeed, to ignore all translations available. Even after this Elder-Miller translation was out in 1961, they continued to tell their membership "It has not been translated yet." Any versions that were published by others, they ignored and would classify them as negative to their membership. They did not have the proper filters or spin-doctoring. Their second approach, when obligated to translate the text, was to distort and obfuscate its content in the translation. (Examples given here.) Thus the priceless value of the Elder-Miller version.

The Growing Gap Between the Baha'i Promotional Package

And the Baha'i Scriptures

Early in the religion's development certain ideas, only minimally present in the original teachings of Baha'u'llah, began to be enlarged a great deal. These could be called socialist, Marxist, or progressive ideas found in the statements of most mystics. From a text that contained great mysticism, emphasis on obedience to God and devotion to Baha'u'llah arose a religion that instead promoted feminism, world government, and deracination. The feminism is particularly remarkable since the Kitab-i-Aqdas appears to be directed to men, makes certain prohibitions for women, and quite clearly assumes polygamy as normative. Baha'u'llah himself had, according to accounts, four wives.

But a few minor reforms or relaxing of Islamic regulations on women were spinned by the Baha'is into a program in which the Baha'i Faith became "feminist" in a Marxist sense. The longer the Baha'is suppressed and ignored the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the larger grew the gap between the Kitab-i-Aqdas text and what Baha'is were teaching. Continually attempting to appeal to progressives, they ended up with a "Ten Basic Principles" list that was quite different than their actual founding texts. Nothing make the gap between teaching and text more obvious than the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Another statement Baha'is would make to their newcomers was: "Mankind is not ready for it." But as the modern age developed, each passing year made mankind more and more "unready" for the very dated, even culturally primitive content of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. The Elder-Miller translation makes it abundantly clear why the Baha'is hid their most important scripture.

Baha'is state that this Kitab-i-Aqdas is mankind's complete guidance from God the next thousand years. That is rather sad considering they didn't allow us (in the west) to even read the text for the first 120 years. Upon reading its contents the reader will notice a few things.

First, one notices a very Islamic tone and attitude of the harsher variety. One law in the case of arson is put bluntly: "Whoever burns a house intentionally, burn him." This is the straightforward Elder-Miller phrasing. The official Baha'i text that finally came out had it this way: "Should anyone intentionally destroy a house by fire, him also shall ye burn."

The Strange Laws of the Kitab-i-Aqdas / The Textual Manipulations by Baha'i Officials Perceivable Thanks to the Elder-Miller Translation

Baha'u'llah was a prince. He wanted his followers to be an attractive group. The Kitab-i-Aqdas tells them to get new furniture every 9 years. It outlaws the shaving of the head or men having hair longer than their earlobes. The scripture instructs them to use perfume, to wear silk and furs. This is succinctly and cleanly stated in the form of one of many commands in the Elder-Miller translation:

"Wear sable (sammur) just as you wear silk and squirrel-skin and other things."

In the Elder-Miller version one can usually distinguish easily the difference between a mere "allowing" of an activity (not forbidden) and a command to do it. The Elder-Miller translation has this as a command, like the command to wear perfume. Seeing how absurd this perfume command looks to our present culture the Baha'i administration altered the lines in significant ways:

"Ye are free to wear the fur of the sable as ye would that of the beaver, the squirrel, and other animals."

This puts it as a mere option; as something not prohibited. By comparing the official version to the Miller-Elder version you can see Baha'i officialdom's manipulation of translation outcome from cover-to-cover. The perfume command rendered by Elder-Miller is:

"Use rose water, then pure perfume."

It is clear that the rose water is intended to be worn on the skin, just as with perfume. But the 120-year-late official version translates it cleverly:

"Make use of rose-water, and of pure perfume;"

This rendering obfuscates the original intention and creates loopholes. It opens the possibility that the rose-water does not need to be something worn on the skin, just "made use of." Western women are fussy about things like that, you know. Some of them don't like being told they have to wear perfume. Likely, modern Baha'is won't want to uses rose water for their guru and this doesn't sell the faith. Perhaps the rose-water and perfume could be "made use of" a disinfectant? Or for scientific experiments? Or some other use. (The just-mentioned mental scenario would be typical of the Baha'i administrative mind which likes to focus on science and technology rather than it's own religious content notwithstanding their founders' anti-science attitudes.) The perfume, in this official rendering, becomes something that is to be 'made use of,' not necessarily worn by the devotees. Perhaps as a substance for insect control, etc.

This is loophole-building. This spin-doctoring and effective alteration of inconvenient passages is frequent throughout the belatedly published official translation of the Baha'is and only the Elder-Miller version (and others) make this clear. Their belated 1993 version also contains a great deal of explanations, apologies, and padding to help to shift the meaning or outright annul Baha'u'llah's statement and help current Baha'is live with the the strange text. This occurred early on with Baha'u'llah's apparent assumption of polygamy as a norm. The Baha'i administration wrote a treatment that says, essential, 'This can't be so.'

Indeed, one pleasure of the Elder-Miller version is reading it straight without the filler, distractions, and excusing explanations of Baha'i officials. One finds out that the original Kitab-i-Aqdas was a terse, thin volume. The original book is only 74 pages with 10-pt. type. The Baha'i administration and spin doctors added so much to their version that their Aqdas ballooned to 315 pages! Most of it written by the administration, not Baha'u'llah. The scholarly Elder-Miller version, intending to present the Arabic as it really was written, makes these manipulations by modern Baha'is clear to see. That is its value.

Baha'is promote their religion as one that is superior due to access to the original founder texts. Further, they state that the problem with religions is that change creeps in, with the original texts and their meanings lost. The Baha'i Faith, is, they say, different. One of the interesting things about the Baha'i Book of Laws, given it is presented by them as full guidance for mankind for a thousand years, is the content it lacks. It requires that marriage be effected with a dowry:

"Relationship by marriage is not realized except by (payment of) dowries." And adulterers have to give the Baha'i "House of Justice" "nine mithquals of gold." (Elder/Miller explain that this amounts to 1-7th of an ounce of gold.) But the Most Holy Book contains no advice or laws about the following urgent problems of mankind:

• Technological manipulation, genetic and bio-engineering, or food monopoly

• Pornography, incest, and nothing apparent regarding pedophilia (he only mentions boys), homosexuality, etc.

• Bio-medical ethics, such as euthanasia

• Punishments or laws for rape (or even mention of rape as a human crime)

• Industrialization, pollution, the environment

• Forms of government

• Mass media and monopolies

.. and many other dire problems.

The scripture does, however, contain laws about falcon-hunting and a great deal of funeral and burial laws. Their royal founder Baha'u'llah enjoined Baha'is be buried in some fancy coffins. Two sentences from the Elder-Miller translation:

Elder-Miller Version: "When in hunting you use birds of prey, make mention of God. Then whatever they catch for you is lawful."

Elder-Miller Version: "God has commanded that the dead be buried in (coffins of) crystal or rare stones or beautiful hard woods, and that engraved rings be placed on their fingers."

Official Version: "The Lord hath decreed that the dead should be interred in coffins made of crystal, of hard, resistant stone, or of wood that is both fine and durable, and that graven rings should be placed upon their fingers."

Notice that hardwoods are no longer needed (rare now!), just "fine and durable" wood. Also note that the administration altered the command for "rare stones" into mere "hard, resistant stone." Only the Elder-Miller translation lets you see all the invention and alteration-of-texts that Baha'i officialdom is engaged with. And it becomes clear why they hid the text from the west for 120 years.

Here is how the Baha'i Administration rendered the line allowing more than one wife to make it come out differently:


"God has ordained marriage for you. Beware lest you go beyond two, and whoever is satisfied with one of the handmaidens, his soul is at rest and so is hers."

While he makes prohibitions in a clear manner elsewhere in the text, there is no prohibition here, merely a "beware" beyond 2, while advising that one has advantages.

Official Baha'i Version:

"God hath prescribed matrimony unto you. Beware that ye take not unto yourselves more wives than two. Whoso contenteth himself with a single partner from among the maidservants of God, both he and she shall live in tranquility."

Notice the big difference in the impressions the versions create. The Elder version assumes two wives as normative and quite acceptable in these two simple lines: "God has ordained marriage for you. Beware lest you go beyond two." Baha'u'llah reportedly had at least four wives. What kindly uncle wouldn't say "beware!" and "careful!" to a young man considering three or more wives? The tone of the official version ends with the impression that both 3+ AND dual wives are prohibited. There is no sense of prohibition of either state in the Elder version, only a warning about 3+.

In the Elder version the man contenting himself with one is simply shown approbation, with the results promoted as worthy of consideration: "whoever is satisfied with one...his soul is at rest." The official version makes monogamy appear to be specified and required: "Whoso contenteth himself with a single partner...shall live in tranquility." Using 'shall live' -- the predictive, prophetic, or "ordaining" voice so common to Baha'i literature -- ("...he and she shall live...")the mere observation that one-wife men have more peace now feels like a single-wife specification that is, after this stormy reference to polygamy, the one ordained state for the the future.

It took them 120 years to come up with that clever re-working of the original simple sentences, to make it appear that Baha'u'llah did not say what he said. Thus we need the Elder-Miller translation.

The use of the word "partner" in the modern version is particularly jarring in the founding text. A few decades back this would have been "wife." (The sentence is clearly directed to men and refers to how many wives they should have.) The the vague term "partner" has never occurred in any translations of Baha'u'llah heretofore (relative to marriage) or even "spouse." "Partner" is a modern culture-bomb used by those with modern anti-traditional attitudes, particular homosexuals and those who wish to redefine marriage as any amalgam of any sexes. It is there in the official Baha'i version as both anticipation and acceptance of the further degradation of natural sexual roles and traditional marriage, and gives us a hint as to which way the Baha'i Faith is now headed.

Mystical Language in the Kitab-i-Aqdas

One fascinating aspect of Baha'i writings is the Sufic mystical content, and the Kitab-i-Aqdas is loaded with that. After reading official Baha'i translations for a while it becomes very interesting to see how Elder & Miller translate certain mystic phrases compared to official versions. The Elder-Miller translation appears to be more direct with less attempt to fit Baha'u'llah's words into decorous English literary forms. Here is one from the Elder-Miller Aqdas:

"O People, direct your steps with white faces and hearts full of light towards the Blessed Red Spot where the Lote Tree of the Extremity (sidratu l-muntaha) calls, "There is no god besides Me, the Self-Subsistent Overseer."

Here is the official Baha'i version:

"Turn, o people, with bright faces and illuminated hearts towards the blessed red spot in which the Sadrat-El-Muntaha (divine tree) crieth out, "Verily there is no God but Me, the protector, the self-Existent."

"White" has become "bright." "Hearts full of light" (possibly an occult reference referring to inner perceived light, plus the Sufic idea as the "heart" as a meditation point in the body) became "illuminated heart" which suggests a vague intellection or higher thought. The more evocative and instructive "Lote Tree of the Extremity" has been shortened to simply "Lote Tree." (A truncation reflecting the anti-mystical attitudes of the Baha'i administration.) The "overseer" who witnesses (a word more like "foreman" and "boss") has been turned into an active "protector." "Subsistent," a term with a philosophical and mystical heritage, got dumbed-down to "existent."

Another fine example of the mystical language in the Aqdas, from Elder-Miller:

"Leave what you have! Then fly with the minions of Separation beyond Innovation."

Official Baha'i Version:

"Cast away that which ye possess, and, on the wings of detachment, soar beyond all created things."

It is a noteworthy characteristic of the Baha'i Faith -- and I was an active member of 15 years -- that none of these curious mystical terms and statements, so abundant in Baha'i writings, are ever explained or even discussed.

Note that the original used the stronger "separation," and Baha'u'llah did, indeed, want his community to stand apart from the rest and his mystical focus for the Baha'is was making them utterly "detached from all save God," especially detached from "the world." This term referred to the ideal of a profound, emotionally ascetic separation from the world which he often advocated. Changing "beyond innovation" into "beyond creation" is a particularly egregious distortion and change to the text and a complete reverse of its meaning. (Just as Baha'is converted the technology-negative views of the founders into a technology-positive message.) "Innovation" in the original refers to the activities of man and mind. "Creation" refers to the creation of God. The original "innovation" referred to the tendency of men to invent ideas, especially conflict-inducing ideas, and change what God created. He also sometimes used the term "invention."

Side Note: The general attitude of Baha'u'llah toward man's invention and innovation was negative. (Both the Bab and Baha'u'llah were anti-technology. The Bab outlawed the study of sciences and foreign travel. Baha'u'llah, when hearing of the invention described it as a "hellish engine" (altered by the admin. into "infernal engine" that would destroy the cities. (Altered by the admin into "consume the cities.")

It is perhaps completely understandable that official Baha'i translators wanted to cover up Baha'u'llah's disparagement of human "innovation" in religious texts. The Elder-Miller translation of the Aqdas shows that the official Baha'i version is loaded with invention and innovation.

-- Julian Curtis Lee

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