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The 1893 Russian Publication of Baha’u’llah’s Last Will and Testament: An Academic Attestation of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Successorship

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This study concerns the publication of a document that may well be unique in the history of religions: the written designation of a successor by the charismatic founder of a world religion. Mīrzā usayn-‘Alī (1817–1892), known as Bahā’-Allāh (more commonly, Baha’u’llah, ‘Splendor of God’), prophet–founder of the Bahā’ī Faith. In the Kitāb-i ‘Ahdī (‘Book of My Covenant’), Baha’u’llah designated his eldest son, ‘Abbās Effendī, known as ‘Abdu’l-Bahā (1844–1921), as successor. Baha’u’llah died on 29 May 1892 (at 3:00 a.m.) in Bahjī (near ‘Akkā), Palestine (now modern-day Israel), and the Kitāb-i ‘Ahdī was read aloud nine days later. In 1893, Russian orientalist, Aleksandr Grigor’evich Tumanski (1861–1920) published this document, in the original Persian, with Russian translation, together with a eulogy composed by the celebrated Bahā’ī poet, Mīrzā ‘Alī-Ashraf-i Lāhījānī, known by his sobriquet, ‘Andalīb (‘Nightingale’; d. 1920). Since ‘Andalīb was an eyewitness to the events he describes, his eulogy may be treated as a historical source. Tumanski’s scholarly publication of the Kitāb-i ‘Ahdī is discussed in the context of Russian scholarly and diplomatic interests. The present study is presented as follows: (1) Introduction; (2) Aleksandr Grigor’evich Tumanski; (3) Contents of the Kitāb-i ‘Ahdī and Brief Commentary; (4) ‘Andalīb’s Eyewitness Account of the Reading of the Kitāb-i ‘Ahdī, 1892; (5) The St. Petersburg Edition of the Kitāb-i ‘Ahdī; (6) The Original Manuscript of the Kitāb-i ‘Ahdī and the Textus Receptus; (7) Textual Variants Between the St. Petersburg Edition of the Kitāb-i ‘Ahdī and the Textus Receptus; (8) The Cambridge Manuscript of the Kitāb-i ‘Ahdī in the E. G. Browne Collection; and (9) Conclusion: Contemporary-Historical Attestation of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Successorship by Tumanski and other Russian Notables
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Keywords: Abdu’l-Baha; Alexsandr Tumanski; Baha’i Faith; Baha’u’llah; Baron Rosen; Edward Granville Browne; Kitab-i ‘Ahd; covenant; successor

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Independent Scholar, Pittsburgh 2: Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg)

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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