Tafsir as Mystical Experience: Intimacy and Ecstasy in Quran Commentary

Tafsīr sūrat al-baqara by Sayyid ʿAlī Muḥammad Shīrāzī, The Báb (1819-1850)


In Tafsir as Mystical Experience, Todd Lawson shows how the Quran may be engaged with for meaning and understanding, the usual goal of mystical exegesis, and also how it may be engaged with through tafsīr in a quest for spiritual or mystical experience. In this earliest of the Báb’s extended works, written before his public claim to be the return of the hidden Imam, the act of reading is shown to be something akin to holy communion in which the sacred text is both entrance upon and destination of the mystic quest. The Quran here is a door to an “abode of glory” and an abiding spiritual encounter with the divine through the prophet, his daughter Fāṭima and the twelve Imams of Ithna-ʿasharī Shiʿism who inhabit the letters, words, verses and suras of the Book.

Cover calligraphy by Burhan Zahrai of Quran 53:11

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Todd Lawson, Ph.D. (1988), McGill University, is emeritus professor of Islamic Thought, University of Toronto. He has published monographs and many articles on the Quran and its interpretation, including The Quran, Epic and Apocalypse (Oneworld Academic, 2017).
Introduction: Entering the House of Glory
Chapter One: Walāya: Luminous Love and Intimacy
Chapter Two: Tetrads: Architecture of Illumined Intimacy, I
Chapter Three: Heptads: Architecture of Illumined Intimacy, II
Chapter Four: Tajallī: Divine Glory Manifested
Chapter Five: Qāʾim: Glory Embodied
Epilogue: A Mysticism of the Covenant
Bibliography of Printed Works
All interested in the hermeneutics of esotericism, the Quran & tafsir, mystical Islam (Sufi and otherwise) and Twelver Shiʿism in addition to those interested in the genealogy of the Bábí and Bahá’í religions.
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