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Religious Authority & Apocalypse: Tafsīr as Experience in an Early Work by the Bāb

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Chapter Summary

It is of some significance that the first major work by ʿAlī Muḥammad Shīrāzī, known to history as The Bāb, founder of the influential yet short-lived Iranian Bābī religion, is a commentary on the first two chapters of the Qurʾān, the short al-Fātiḥa (the Opening) and the longest sura of the Qurʾān, al-Baqara. Of the several topics and themes discussed in the Bāb's commentary on al-Baqara, four emerge as the most characteristic: divine self-manifestation (tajallī); the hierarchization of being and existence; eschatology (khurūj, qiyūma, zuhūr); and "religious" authority (walāya). This chapter discusses these four topics. The radical interpretation of several passages in the Sūrat al-baqara as speaking directly to the subject of walāya is not an innovation of the Bāb's, but has characterized a strong tendency in Shiite exegesis from the earliest times.

Keywords: Bāb; being and existence; divine self-manifestation; Qurʾān; religious authority; Tafsīr



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