You are here: Home>Articles> Dr Ahang Rababni: A translator in good faith or a Baha’i whitewasher

Dr Ahang Rabbani, a well-known Baha’i academic and translator who left behind a wealth of translations for the Baha’i community, passed away in late 2013. According to an article on the website of the Wilmette institute –which is “an agency of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, operates as a center of learning offering academic, professional, and service-oriented programs related to the Bahá’í Faith,”– Ahang Rabbani served at the Baha’i World Center in the 1980’s and has “translated numerous … historical accounts from Persian into English, greatly enriching English-language literature about the history of the Iranian Bahá’í community.”

In fact, Ahang Rabbani had created a website, that amongst other works, was dedicated to the translation of the memoirs of trusted Baha’i eyewitnesses who had lived, conversed, or socialized with Baha’i leaders such as Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi (see Witnesses to Babi and Bahá'í History)

While investigating how Baha’is censor and hide problematic matters in their scripture which had been inadvertently exposed by Dr Rabbani (the case has been documented in another article here), it was realized that Ahang Rabbani himself had distorted a number of very problematic statements while translating the volumes that he had been working on. In two cases, these distortions are amended by footnotes which state the translations are approximate/not precise, while in fact they are neither but an outright twisting of the truth.

In this article we will analyze the distortions introduced by Dr Rabbani in the work A Lifetime with Abdu'l-Bahá: Reminiscences of Khalil Shahidi. Also, a single quote from another one of his translations which is worthy of mentioning will be presented. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to read through all the book (or his other translations) and only sections were double checked that had been marked for editing/censoring in the original manuscript by the Baha’i publishing committee that Dr Rabbani had inadvertently exposed. It is most likely that the same trend of distorting translations can be found in the other volumes translated by Ahang Rabbani.

1- Abdu’l-Baha: The Jewish inhabitants of Tiberius look like monkeys!

Pay attention to the following quote from Abdu’l-Baha:

“If you ask about Tiberius, know that its stones are black, its inhabitants are Jewish and their appearance is basic.” (Ahang Rabbani, A Lifetime with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Reminiscences of Khalíl Shahídí, p. 68)

Dr Rabbani writes a footnote at the end of this statement: “The narrator gives this statement in both original Arabic and translation in Persian. Translation of the final phrase is not precise.” (footnote no. 74)

Ahang claims that the “translation of the final phrase is not precise.” Thanks for the honesty. An unsuspecting Baha’i reader would most probably ignore this statement and read on. Someone who independently investigates the truth would scrutinize. So what has Dr Rabbani distorted? Here is the image of the original manuscript in Farsi:

Khalil Shahidi Jews of Tiberius

The two arrows point to two sentences: one in Arabic and the same sentence again in Farsi:

" وجوههم کالقرد"

" صورتهایشان مانند میمونان است"

The translation of these statements is this:

“their appearance is like monkeys/apes”!

So this is what Abdu’l-Baha had said about the Jews of Tiberius:

“If you ask about Tiberius, know that its stones are black, its inhabitants are Jewish and their appearance is like monkeys/apes.”

This is how it was translated by the professional Baha’i translator who is no longer amongst us:

“If you ask about Tiberius, know that its stones are black, its inhabitants are Jewish and their appearance is basic.”

 

2-Abdu’l-Baha: Baha’i niggers are better than non-Baha’i nymphs

According to Ahang Rabbani, this is how Abdu’l-Baha had compared Baha’is with non-Baha’is:

“‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, “The least of the friends is better than the fairest of the nonbelievers.” Moreover, He used to say, “The worst of the friends is better than the best of the nonbelievers.”” (Ahang Rabbani, A Lifetime with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Reminiscences of Khalíl Shahídí, p. 81)

This statement is utterly against the “Oneness of Humanity” that Baha’is pride themselves in. For now we will ignore this discrepancy for there is a more severe fault here. This is the image if the original Farsi manuscript:

 

Abdu'l-Baha Baha'i nigger better than non-Baha'i nymph

The section marked in red that has been uttered by Abdu’l-Baha reads:

یک کاکاسیاه احباب بهتر از یک حوریه اغیار است

Which translates to:

“A Baha’i nigger is better than a non-Baha’i nymph”!

Apologies for using the n word! The original Farsi word Abdu’l-Baha used is ‘kaka siah’ (کاکا سیاه) which is the equivalent of ‘nigger’ in English.

Compare with Rabbani’s translation:

“The least of the friends is better than the fairest of the nonbelievers.”

What is more shameful is the fact that the word ‘least’ has been used as an equivalent for ‘nigger’!

 

3- Abdu’l-Baha: That covenant breaker looks like a donkey with a broken neck

Pay attention to the following quote:

“One of the pillars of the Covenant-breakers was named Muhammad-Javád Qazvíní. When he strolled, he held his neck exceedingly straight, particularly if he came upon the friends or His blessed Temple [‘Abdu’l-Bahá]. ‘Abdul-Bahá would say, “He is like someone with a back injury, and forced to hold his neck straight to ease the pain.” (Ahang Rabbani, A Lifetime with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Reminiscences of Khalíl Shahídí, p. 91)

What was so special about the last sentence that needed to be mentioned in the memoirs: “He is like someone with a back injury, and forced to hold his neck straight to ease the pain.” It will become clear in a few moments. This is the image of the original Farsi:

 

Abdu'l-Baha: the covenant breaker is a like a donkey with a broken neck

The section underlined in red reads:

این مثل الاغی می ماند که کمرش زخم شده باشد و از شدت درد گردنش را شق نگه دارد.

Which translates to:

“He is like a donkey with a back injury, and forced to hold his neck straight to ease the pain.”

Abdu’l-Baha has compared a covenant-breaker with a donkey. This isn’t strange from Abdu’l-Baha. After all he is the son of Baha’u’llah who would refer to his deniers and enemies as donkeys, pigs, and dogs. Now, compare with Dr Rabbani’s translation:

“He is like someone with a back injury, and forced to hold his neck straight to ease the pain.”

Dr Rabbani writes in the footnote that this is “an approximate translation”. Apparently, in the Baha’i teachings, ‘donkey’ is an approximate translation for ‘someone’!

 

4- Abdu’l-Baha: Jews are an ugly people/race

According to Ahang Rabbani this is how Abdu’l-Baha responded to a Jew he was debating:

“‘Abdu’l-Bahá immediately responded back with the lines,

This faith is true, that a delight!

and yet the mob, an ugly sight,

Protested it with all their might!

I wish I knew which one was right!

However, while He was saying, “and yet the mob, an ugly sight,” He was pointing to him with His blessed hand, meaning, “You are that ugly sight who denies these two Dispensations.” (Ahang Rabbani, A Lifetime with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Reminiscences of Khalíl Shahídí, pp. 23-24)

 

The original words (see image below) that Dr Rabbani has translated as “yet the mob, an ugly sight” read as:

"و لکن القوم القبیح"

These words translate to: “But the ugly people/race.” This is the first distortion in the translation. The second distortion occurs in the sentence: You are that ugly sight.” In the original Farsi, the word translated as ‘You’ has been used in the plural form (shoma-ha) which means Abdu’l-Baha was referring to all Jews not just the person he was conversing with. Abdu’l-Baha directly calls the followers of Judaism an “ugly people/race.” This statement has been clearly distorted in the translation.

Abdu'l-Baha: Jews are an ugly race

Ironically, Dr Rabbani states that he has made great effort to translate this work precisely and in the style and manner of the original text:

“Since the account is a primary source document, every effort was made to translate it precisely in the style and manner of the original, in hope that by so doing it would convey a flavor of the original text.” (Ahang Rabbani, A Lifetime with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Reminiscences of Khalíl Shahídí, p. 8)

We’ll leave it to the readers to Judge Dr Rabbani on this statement. Before we conclude this article one final quote will be mentioned here. This quote is from another one of Dr Rabbani’s translations:

5- Baha’u’llah: That man announced my arrival; bash his mouth

“One day when Bahá’u’lláh had returned from Sulaymáníyyih, He was walking in the street with the late Áqá Mírzá Muhammad-Qulí. A kabob-maker had whispered, “Once more the Bábís have come into the open.” The Blessed Beauty told Mírzá Muhammad-Qulí, “Rebuke him appropriately!” Mírzá Muhammad-Qulí grabbed his beard and punished him. The Kabobí took a complaint to the constable, but was thrown in jail and told, “Obviously you must have grievously insulted them for the Bábís to have punished you in such manner!”” (Eight Years Near Abdu'l-Bahá: The Diary of Dr. Habib Mu'ayyad, p. 276)

The three underlined sections have been distorted by Dr Rabbani. Baha’u’llah had not said: “Rebuke him appropriately!” He had said: “Hit him in the mouth.” The original Farsi of the second section reads as: “grabbed his beard and started hitting him in the head” not “grabbed his beard and punished him.” Finally, the third section reads as “hit you” not “punish you.”

Below is an image of the original Farsi document for comparison:

Baha'u'llah hit that man in the mouth

 

Ahang Rabbani shamelessly distorts Baha’ullah’s orders to bash a poor man’s head for merely announcing his arrival. Amazingly, contrary to multiple Baha’i and non-Baha’i sources that show the true violent face of Baha’u’llah, Baha’is relentlessly go about claiming that their leader was a peaceful man and against violence.

These actions are only a handful of Baha’i distortions, censoring, and information control techniques. Such methods can also be found in the writings of other Baha’i authors. For instance, in the book “An Introduction to Shiʻi Islam” authored by the Baha’i Scholar Moojan Momen, a Shia narration about the year that the Mahdi (who Baha’is believe was the Bab) will appear has been mentioned. According to Moojan Momen the narration states that “He will NOT COME in an odd year” (see image below). This means that the Mahdi will come in an even year. This prophecy conforms with the Bab who made his claims in the Islamic year 1260 AH.

Moojan Momen

Unfortunately, a closer inspection of the original narration exposes a bitter truth. The narration mentions the exact opposite of how it has been cited by Moojan Momen and clearly states the Mahdi “will COME in an odd year.” This is the original Arabic text of the narration:

" لا يخرج القائم ع إلا في وتر من السنين سنة إحدى أو ثلاث أو خمس أو سبع أو تسع"

Which says:

“The Mahdi will not come but in an odd year [that ends with a] 1, 3, 5, 7, or 9.”

Moojan Momen fixed this dilemma by distorting the translation of the narration. This distortion has subsequently been used by other Baha’i authors to prove that Babism has fulfilled the prophecies of Shia Isam (e.g. Fazel Naghdy, A Tutorial on the Kitab-i-iqan: A Journey Through the Book of Certitude, p. 392)

Apparently, these attitudes have been inherited by Baha’i translators from Baha’u’llah himself who forged/distorted a number of Shia traditions in the Book of Iqan to prove his claims. For instance he claimed that the year of the arrival of the Bab had been clearly prophesized in Shia traditions:

“Consider, that even the year in which that Quintessence of Light is to be made manifest hath been specifically recorded in the traditions, yet they still remain unmindful, nor do they for one moment cease to pursue their selfish desires. According to the tradition, Mufaddal asked Sadiq saying: “What of the sign of His manifestation, O my master?” He made reply: “In the year sixty, His Cause shall be made manifest, and His Name shall be proclaimed.” How strange! Notwithstanding these explicit and manifest references these people have shunned the Truth.” (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, pp. 253–254)

This is while in the original narration that Baha’u’llah has distorted, it has been clearly mentioned that no date has been set for the arrival of the Mahdi:

“From Mufaddal ibn Umar who said, “I asked my Master (Imam) Sadiq is there an appointed time (for the appearance) of the assigned waiting Mahdi that the people know about?” He replied, “God forbid, that He appoint a time for his appearance . . .” Mufaddal said, “How will the beginning of his appearance be and how will (they) submit to him?” He replied, “O Mufaddal, he will appear during (a great) doubt to dispel it. Then his name will be proclaimed and his cause shall be made manifest.” (Al-Majlisi, Bihar al-anwar (Beirut: Mu’assisat al-Wafa, 1404 AH), vol. 53, p. 1–3)

Abdu’l-Baha too followed his father’s footsteps and even distorted/forged verses from the Quran when trying to prove his false statements. For instance, when trying to prove his beliefs about minerals having a spirit and life he removed parts of a verse of the Quran and twisted its meaning:

“As to the existence of spirit in the mineral: it is indubitable that minerals are endowed with a spirit and life according to the requirements of that stage. This unknown secret, too, hath become known unto the materialists who now maintain that all beings are endowed with life, even as He saith in the Qur’an, ‘All things are living.’” (`Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to August Forel, p. 9.)

The original verse says"...We made out of water every living thing..." (Quran, 21:30) which is a different meaning and concept altogether. In another instance, he uttered a statement and attributed it to the Quran to silence a critic:

“This time, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá added, “O Shaykh Mahmúd, have you not read the Qur’an, ‘Honor thy guests though they be infidels’?” As soon as the Shaykh heard this verse, his anger subsided.” (Ahang Rabbani, A Lifetime with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Reminiscences of Khalíl Shahídí, pp. 31-32)

This verse too does not exist in the Quran (other instances have been documented elsewhere). Anyway, we will leave it to the readers to judge for themselves whether Dr Rababni was a translator in good faith or a Baha’i whitewasher.

UPDATE: Apparently, Ahang Rabbani has been found making these kinds of distortions in some of his other works too including sections from one of the Bab's works called Panj Sha'n. See the seven documents here.

 

“A Baha’i nig*er is better than a non-Baha’i nymph” “A Baha’i ni*ger is better than a non-Baha’i nymph” “A Baha’i ****** is better than a non-Baha’i nymph”

Comments (admin@bahaibahai.com)  

+2 # Wahid Azal 2015-12-19 18:31
Salaam, I urge you to look at Mulla Ja'far Niraqi's tadhkirat al-ghafilin. There is a version here http://bayanic.com/showPict.php?id=tazk&ref=0&err=0&curr=0
and another here: http://libweb5.princeton.edu/visual_materials/Babi/Islamic%20Manuscripts%20-%20Third%20Series%20-%20no.%201.pdf

There is a goldmine of information regarding the violent nature of Baha'u'llah during the Baghdad period in this account by one of the prominent Babis of the period.
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+1 # admin 2015-12-21 14:26
Dear Wahid Azal,
Salaam,

Thank you for the material. We will study these and use any appropriate material in future articles and publications.
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+3 # Maani 2015-02-19 10:28
Great work. Keep up the good work.
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