Stephen Lambden's review of "Gate of the heart"

Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb (Bahá'í Studies Series, vol. 1)
Author: Nader Saiedi
Publisher: Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2008, 423 pp.
Review by: Stephen Lambden

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Since the Victorian era of the great Western Islamicists and Orientalists, very few modern academics have been bold enough to write about the life and writings of Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad Shirazi (1819-50 C.E.), the early Qajar-era, Persian-born, messianic claimant widely known as the Bab or 'Gate' (primarily to the occulted twelfth Imam). Even fewer have attempted to translate his numerous, notoriously complex Arabic and Persian writings, the knowledge of which is indispensable to a proper comprehension of the short-lived religion that he founded in 1260/1844. The Bab was executed by a firing squad in Tabriz in 1850, but within a few years his post-Islamic religion was resurrected in a new form by Mirza Husayn 'Ali Nuri (1817-92), the founder of the now globally diffused Bahá'í religion.

Aside from the Persian Bayan and a few other writings, the corpus of the Bab for the most part remains unedited, unpublished, unstudied, and little understood. As early as 1865, with the aid of Persian assistants, the French writer and diplomat Joseph A. Comte de Gobineau (d. 1888) managed to produce a tolerable (yet wrongly titled) French translation of the Arabic Bayan of the Bab, the "Ketab al-Hukkam" [sic]. Forty years later, another sympathetic French consular official and Persianist, Louise (A. L. M.) Nicholas (d. 1939), translated the same work along with its longer Persian counterpart and a few other writings of the Bab. The great Cambridge scholar Edward G. Browne (d. 1926) wrote much about Babi history, bibliography, and factionalism, but translated and analyzed only a few items of his challenging literary output.

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