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Tafsir as Mystical Experience: Intimacy and Ecstasy in Quran Commentary

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

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Todd Lawson

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.
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During its Qajar period (1210–1344/1795–1925) Iran witnessed some lively and significant philosophical discourse. Yet apart from studies devoted to individual figures such as Mullā Hādī Sabzawārī and Shaykh Aḥmad Aḥsāʾī, modern scholarship has paid little attention to the animated discussions and vibrant traditions of philosophy that continued in Iran during this period. The articles assembled in this book present an account of the life, works and philosophical challenges taken up by seven major philosophers of the Qajar period. As a collection, the articles convey the range and diversity of Qajar philosophical thinking. Besides indigenous thoughts, the book also deals with the reception of European philosophy in Iran at the time.