Gate of the Heart

The anniversary of the Birth of the Báb is soon to arrive. It will be on Monday, October 20th, and is one of our Holy Days. The blessed Báb’s appearance on this earth is one of the great events in human history, one that as yet few people appreciate, probably even many Bahá’ís. He was the Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh and devoted His life to preparing the way for Him. The tumultuous events that occurred in Iran during His brief Ministry, so ably recorded in The Dawnbreakers, was inevitable given the social conditions that prevailed in that country.

Bahá’ís of many years who have read widely, searching for and absorbing all of the knowledge that they could obtain about their Faith, have had little available to them about the Writings of the Báb. We have the marvelous Selections from the Writings of the Báb published by the Universal House of Justice in 1976. However, finding commentary to help us gain a real appreciation of His Writings has been elusive. About all that has been available are short scholarly essays which have a narrow focus, must be pulled together from many sources and are few and far between, and are written in the standard terminology of scholarship that requires most readers to keep a dictionary at their side.

“Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb” by Nader Saiedi, published in 2008 by Wilfrid Laurier University Press, is a welcome and refreshing addition to our literature that goes a long way to helping us gain this understanding that so many of us have sought. So far, I have read only the first three of the fourteen chapters. Mr. Saiedi’s exploration of the Báb’s Writings presents a comprehensive overview and synthesis of these important Writings in a scholarly manner without the “terminology potholes” that the uninitiated must typically navigate when reading scholarly essays. The profundity of the Báb’s Writings quickly strike one as deeply impressive and one must read the book to appreciate them. It is no quick read – I need to read a little at a time and then put the book aside for awhile – but the writing is very good and the prose flows well.  I have reservations as to whether it would be a good book to read by someone not deepened in the Faith, but I cannot say – my perspective is as a Bahá’í of many years with a large library.  What I can tell you is that I’m loving it.     

I would like to share one passage from Gate of the Heart. It is talking about the incredible challenge that the Báb faced in presenting His world-shaking Message, but It also speaks to us today about the difficulties that we, as devoted followers of Bahá’u’lláh, face in teaching the Faith:

“To be willing to subject to reexamination one’s most deeply cherished beliefs – beliefs that constitute the foundation of one’s personal identity – and accept the possibility that those beliefs may be mistaken requires an extremely high degree of psychological and spiritual maturity. It requires an absolute dedication to searching out the truth above all, no matter where that search leads, and a willingness to recognize the truth once one encounters it, no matter what the consequences. Few people possess such a level of absolute justice and love of truth that surpasses all other allegiances and inclinations. Thus the majority of the audience to whom the Báb would offer His message could be expected to respond to it initially with shock, denial, and rejection.” [page 89]

“Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb” may be purchased through the Bahá’í Distribution Service.

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