Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb

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Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 2008 M04 22 - 423 pages

Co-published with the Association for Bahá’í Studies

In 1844 a charismatic young Persian merchant from Shiraz, known as the Báb, electrified the Shí‘ih world by claiming to be the return of the Hidden Twelfth Imam of Islamic prophecy. But contrary to traditional expectations of apocalyptic holy war, the Báb maintained that the spiritual path was not one of force and coercion but love and compassion. The movement he founded was the precursor of the Bahá’í Faith, but until now the Báb’s own voluminous writings have been seldom studied and often misunderstood. Gate of the Heart offers the first in-depth introduction to the writings of the Báb.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the author examines the Báb’s major works in multifaceted context, explaining the unique theological system, mystical world view, and interpretive principles they embody as well as the rhetorical and symbolic uses of language through which the Báb radically transforms traditional concepts. Arguing that the Bábí movement went far beyond an attempt at an Islamic Reformation, the author explores controversial issues and offers conclusions that will compel a re-evaluation of some prevalent assumptions about the Báb’s station, claims, and laws.

Nader Saiedi’s meticulous and insightful analysis identifies the key themes, terms, and concepts that characterize each stage of the Báb’s writings, unlocking the code of the Báb’s mystical lexicon. Gate of the Heart is a subtle and profound textual study and an essential resource for anyone wishing to understand the theological foundations of the Bahá’í religion and the Báb’s significance in religious history.


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Extremely misleading. Elements of Bias toward the Baha'i faith are evident throughout the book. There are many distortions in the translations that present a misleading view of the Bab. I had to refer to some of the original Arabic and Persian writings of the Bab when reading portions of the book and was amazed at how many sections were completely taken out of context. The book might seem well researched at first glance but is mostly an attempt at whitewashing the Bab's beliefs and a vain attempt at portraying Baha'u'llah as the Bab's successor while all other evidence points to the fact that Subh-i Azal is the righteous successor of the Bab. 

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As a member of the Baha'i Faith since 1973 I have been aware of a lack of information about The Bab which is unavailable to those who do not read Arabic or Persian. This dense book is a light in the dark. It answers previous critics going back even to E G Browne's criticisms, the only Westerner in the 19th C to meet Baha'u'llah, who as an "orientalist" made erroneous and apparently uninformed statements about the writings of the Bab. It refutes several more modern critics as well. Saiedi's work is breathtaking and despite my lack, there is so much there for even the novice who will trek through this academic jewel. Rarely does one see the quality of work that composed this work which encompasses to my understanding ALL of the available work of the Bab. Thus was Saiedi able to show what others had failed to see. Without a context with nearly all the Bab's work many things would be misunderstood and have been. The author reveals to the previously un-initiated westerner understanding about the allusions to the beloved and lost Joseph, the written work for the first believer, that opened the Baha'i era May 23, 1844 and remain interdispersed in later writings as well. I remain grateful for this work. 


A Short Chronological List of the Bábs Writings
The Interpretive Revelation
The Metaphysics of the Primal Will and Divine Action
The Primal Point and Progressive Revelation

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About the author (2008)

Nader Saiedi was born in Tehran, Iran, and received his master’s degree in economics from Pahlavi University in Shiraz and his PhD in sociology from the University of Wisconsin. He is a professor of sociology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. His most recent book is Logos and Civilization: Spirit, History, and Order in the Writings of Bahái’u’lláh (2000).

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