Of the more than one hundred volumes comprising the sacred Writings of Baha'u'llah, the Kitab-i-Aqdas is of unique importance. "To build anew the whole world" is the claim and challenge of His Message, and the Kitab-i-Aqdas is the Charter of the future world civilization that Baha'u'llah has come to raise up. Its provisions rest squarely on the foundation established by past religions, for, in the words of Baha'u'llah, "This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future." In this Revelation the concepts of the past are brought to a new level of understanding, and the social laws, changed to suit the age now dawning, are designed to carry humanity forward into a world civilization the splendours of which can as yet be scarcely imagined. (1:2)
In its affirmation of the validity of the great religions of the past, the Kitab-i-Aqdas reiterates those eternal truths enunciated by all the Divine Messengers: the unity of God, love of one's neighbour, and the moral purpose of earthly life. At the same time it removes those elements of past religious codes that now constitute obstacles to the emerging unification of the world and the reconstruction of human society. (2:1)
The Law of God for this Dispensation addresses the needs of the entire human family. There are laws in the Kitab-i-Aqdas which are directed primarily to the members of a specific section of humanity and can be immediately understood by them but which, at first reading, may be obscure to people of a different culture. Such, for example, is the law prohibiting the confession of sins to a fellow human being which, though understandable by those of Christian background, may puzzle others. Many laws relate to those of past Dispensations, especially the two most recent ones, those of Muhammad and the Bab embodied in the Qur'an and the Bayan. Nevertheless, although certain ordinances of the Aqdas have such a focused reference, they also have universal implications. Through His Law, Baha'u'llah gradually unveils the significance of the new levels of knowledge and behaviour to which the peoples of the world are being called. He embeds His precepts in a setting of spiritual commentary, keeping ever before the mind of the reader the principle that these laws, no matter the subject with which they deal, serve the manifold purposes of bringing tranquillity to human society, raising the standard of human behaviour, increasing the range of human understanding, and spiritualizing the life of each and all. Throughout, it is the relationship of the individual soul to God and the fulfilment of its spiritual destiny that is the ultimate aim of the laws of religion. "Think not", is Baha'u'llah's own assertion, "that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power." His Book of Laws is His "weightiest testimony unto all people, and the proof of the All-Merciful unto all who are in heaven and all who are on earth". (2:2)
An introduction to the spiritual universe unveiled in the Kitab-i-Aqdas would fail in its purpose if it did not acquaint the reader with the interpretive and legislative institutions that Baha'u'llah has indissolubly linked with the system of law thus revealed. At the foundation of this guidance lies the unique role which Baha'u'llah's Writings --indeed the text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas itself--confer on His eldest son, Abdu'l-Baha. This unique figure is at once the Exemplar of the pattern of life taught by His Father, the divinely inspired authoritative Interpreter of His Teachings and the Centre and Pivot of the Covenant which the Author of the Baha'i Revelation made with all who recognize Him. The twenty-nine years of Abdu'l-Baha's ministry endowed the Baha'i world with a luminous body of commentary that opens multiple vistas of understanding on His Father's purpose.