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Book burning?

Christopher Buck’s Paradise and Paradigm pp 165-6, refers to the Tenth Glad-Tidings under the heading ‘Abrogation of Book Burning.’ Similar verses abrogating the destruction of books are found in Baha’u’llah’s Aqdas and Lawh-i Dunya. The abrogation of the law is welcome, but did the Bab in fact provide for the general burning of books?

My answer on Talisman, December 8, 2007:

There is no burning of books involved, so far as I know.

The Aqdas says : God hath relieved you of the ordinance laid down in the
Bayan concerning the destruction (mahuu = wipe out, erase, scratch off) of
books. We have permitted you to read such sciences as are profitable unto
you, not such as end in idle disputation; better is this for you, if ye
be of them that comprehend.

The Arabic Bayan 6:6 says (approximately) : “erase (ta-mahuu-na) all that
you have written and replace it with the Bayan and what you produce in its

Washing-off a page allows its paper to be re-used, and there is a
common practice of writing prayers on paper, washing it off with a
little water which is collected, and drinking it to prevent evil or
to cure an illness. Book burning is a more a European practice,
presumably because printed books were more common. But even in
Europe, in the days of hand-copied books, paper was sometimes washed off
and re-used. Modern imaging techniques allow us to see the ‘erased’ text,
the palimpest, still hidden within the paper.

The Persian Bayan expands considerably on what the Arabic Bayan says, but
does not explain what is clear in the Arabic Bayan, that the books
concerned are those one has written oneself. The Persian Bayan does
explain the reason for this law, which briefly is, that in each new
dispensation all is made new, yet all previous dispensations are included
in the new. The truth, in effect, has moved to a new place, and one must
turn to the new place to receive it. But this is very much a thumbnail
version of what is a rather long explanation.

Baha’u’llah has annulled this law: there is a difference in emphasis in
the two religions. The first emphasises the newness of the new and thus
the oldness of the old, the second allows more for the continuities within
“the ancient faith of God.” Similarly, the Q&A to the Aqdas includes
churches and chapels in the definition of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar.

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2 Responses to “Book burning?”

  1. Sarah Evans said

    This is very fascinating. I don’t quite understand the reason for the law (which is explained in the Persian Bayan, and which you tried to explain briefly. Could you perhaps expand on this?

  2. Sen said

    A proper answer to this is beyond me; I can only say that the Bayanic laws in general seem to me to aim at changing the consciousness of the readers, to the extent that every thing is seen as manifesting the unity of God and the newness of the age, and every act is then judged in relation to that. The laws seem to be aimed at forming a new consciousness, rather than a new society. The best book on the Bab’s writings is Nader Saiedi, “Gate of the Heart.”

    The Persian Bayan, 6:6 says that in every new age the scriptures of the past are annulled (not erased or ordered to be destroyed): if this is so of true books of scripture, how much more must it be true of books written by ordinary authors, which are merely mirrors reflecting the sun of the scriptures. The same will be true in the day of He Whom God will Manifest: it will be better to recite one verse of His book than to read the whole Bayan and all that has emanated from the Bayan [i.e., all the Babi literature]. The people of the Bayan are warned that in that day they should not be held back by their ‘food’ from the new food that will appear.

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