Gnostic Apocalypse and Islam

Qur'an, Exegesis, Messianism and the Literary Origins of the Babi Religion

By Todd Lawson

© 2012 – Routledge

232 pages

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9780415495394
pub: 2011-10-26
US Dollars$145.00

About the Book

Of the several works on the rise and development of the Babi movement, especially those dealing with the life and work of its founder, Sayyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi, few deal directly with the compelling and complex web of mysticism, theology and philosophy found in his earliest compositions.

This book examines the Islamic roots of the Babi religion, (and by extension the later Baha’i faith which developed out of it), through the Qur’anic commentaries of the Bab and sheds light on its relationship to the wider religious milieu and its profound debt to esoteric Islam, especially Shi'ism. Todd Lawson places the two earliest writings of the Bab within the diverse contexts necessary to understand them, in order to explain why these writings made sense to and inspired his followers. He delves into the history of the tafsir (Qur’an commentary) genre of Islamic scholarship, situates these early writings in the Akhbari, Sufi and most importantly Shaykhi traditions of Islam. In the process, he identifies both the continuities and discontinuities between these works and earlier works of Shi’i tafsir, helping us appreciate significant elements of the Bab’s thought and claims.

Filling an important gap in the existing literature on the Babi movement, this book will be of greatest interest to students and scholars of Qur'an commentary, Mysticism, Shi'ism, the modern history of Iran and messianism.


"The book is useful for readers interested in the esoteric and gnostic traditions of Shi?i Islam, in the Islamic roots of Babism and in apocalyptic literature in general from a comparative perspective." Oliver Scharbrodt, University College Cork, Ireland

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Commentary and Imitation 2. Voices of the Text 3. Center of Existence 4. The Metaleptic Joseph. Conclusion: A Hermeneutic Spiral

About the Author

Todd Lawson is Associate Professor in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on mystical Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic thought, Shi’ism and Sufism, and he has written a number of books on Islamic thought and the Qur’an.

About the Series

Iranian Studies

Since 1967 the International Society for Iranian Studies (ISIS) has been a leading learned society for the advancement of new approaches in the study of Iranian society, history, culture, and literature. The new ISIS Iranian Studies series published by Routledge will provide a venue for the publication of original and innovative scholarly works in all areas of Iranian and Persianate Studies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Islam / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies