Gate of the Heart
Understanding the Writings of the Báb
$85.00 Hardcover, 432 pp.
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$42.95 Paper, 432 pp.
Co-published with the Association for BahÃ¡’Ã Studies
In 1844 a charismatic young Persian merchant from Shiraz, known as the BÃ¡b, electrified the ShÃ’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 BÃ¡b 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 BahÃ¡’Ã faith, but until now the BÃ¡b’s own voluminous writings—complex, mystical, highly symbolic—have been seldom studied and often misunderstood. Gate of the Heart offers the first in-depth introduction to the writings of the BÃ¡b.
Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the author examines the BÃ¡b’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 BÃ¡b radically transforms traditional concepts. Arguing that the BÃ¡bÃ 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 BÃ¡b’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 BÃ¡b’s writings, unlocking the code of the BÃ¡b’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 BahÃ¡’Ã religion and the BÃ¡b’s significance in religious history.
About Nader Saiedi
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).
“The writings of the Báb are like a giant puzzle in which we continually come across words and phrases that seem obscure; but if one persists the key to deciphering them can be found in a different part of the same work or even in another work of the Báb. Through his perseverance in finding these codes and putting them to use in reading key texts, Saiedi has enabled us to take a major step forward in understanding the Báb’s works.”
— Moojan Momen, Religion
“With special emphasis on the Báb’s symbolism and logic, Gate of the Heart is based on meticulous scholarship and profound spiritual understanding. At the same time, it elucidates both the historic significance and contemporary relevance of the Báb’s writings. Written in a clear and engaging style, Gate of the Heart is a welcome contribution to Bahá’í Studies, the study of World Religions, and the study of Spirituality.”
— Tamara Sonn, The College of William and Mary
“A pioneering and groundbreaking work ... provides fundamental keys for understanding some of the distinctive features of the writings of the Báb.”
— Vahid Rafati, Centre for the Study of the Text, Haifa, Israel
“Gate of the Heart will doubtless be much appreciated by those seeking an introduction to the life and writings of the Bab, the Sayyid of Shiraz, who gave his life in promoting a new sacred book and a new religious law for the revolutionary transformation of humankind. In this way it is a worthwhile volume that contributes significantly to the neglected field of Babi-Baha’i studies.”
— Stephen N. Lambden, University of California, Merced, Journal of the American Oriental Society
“The Baha’i Faith, a religion that is growing steadily around the world, claims two prophet-founders: the Bab and Baha’u’llah. While Baha’u’llah’s teachings and works supersede those of the Bab and are most authoritative for Baha’is, the Bab’s works retain scriptural status. For a fugre who started a revolutionary new religion in Persia (Iran) in the first half of the nineteenth century and soon commanded thousands of devoted followers, a large number of whom were tortured and killed for their adherence to the new faith, who produced an extraordinary volume of treatises (some 27 works) of profound theological depth and subtlety, and whose own life was cut short at the age of 32 by the orders of the Shah, it is surprising that there is so little scholarship in English on the works of Siyyid Ali-Muhammed Shirazi, known as the Bab or ‘gate’ (though Todd Lawson’s work in this area is notable). Thus, Saiedi’s erudite and illuminating exposition of the Bab’s writings in indeed welcome.... His analysis tends to be careful, balanced, and compelling.... The Gate of the Heart is ... not only for those interested in Babi studies, or in the Qur’anic interpretation or Shi’i theological debates, but also for anyone willing to consider some truly novel ways of understanding the grand tableau of religious history from the perspective of a faith that calls humanity to reconsider the conceptual basis upon which we will shape oru common future.”
— Anne M. Pearson, McMaster University, Studies in Religion
“The author successfully embeds the discourse of the Báb in both nineteenth-century and contemporary thinking. His sociological approach does not rob these Writings of their revelatory grace, nor does his faith in those Writings preclude a detailed analysis of their significance for society. Students of religion, society, hermeneutics, and history of religion will welcome Gate of the Heart as a bridge between religion and social science. It offers a fine example of how others might approach an analysis of revelatory writing.”
— Will C. van den Hoonaard, Professor Emeritus, University of New Brunswick, and author of The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, 1898—1948 (WLUP, 1996)