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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