Being Human:
Bahá’í Perspectives on Islam, Modernity, and Peace.
By Todd Lawson. Kalimat, 2019.

The Baha’i Faith claims a special and unique relationship to Islam. The religion acknowledges its origins in 19th-century Shi’i Islam, celebrates the Qur’an as the authentic Word of God, and honors the Prophet Muhammad as Messenger of God and Seal of the Prophets. But, on the other hand, the Baha’i Faith insists that it is a new and independent religion that stands distinct and apart from Islam and Islamic practice. This book attempts to understand how such an apparent “cognitive dissonance” may be resolved. Being Human seeks to reconcile contradictions and demonstrate how Baha’i teachings point the way toward peace and the reconciliation of all world religions.

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Tafsir as Mystical Experience: Intimacy and Ecstasy in Quran Commentary. By Todd Lawson. Brill, 2018.

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.

The cover calligraphy, by Burhan Zahrai, is of Qur’án 53, the Súrat al-najm or Chapter of the Star, verse 11: مَا كَذَبَ الْفُؤَادُ مَا رَأَىٰ “The heart lied not of what it saw.”

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The Quran: Epic and Apocalypse. By Todd Lawson. Oneworld Publications, 2017.

How do people understand the Quran to be divine revelation? What is it about this book that inspires such devotion in the reader/believer? Todd Lawson explores how the timeless literary genres of epic and apocalypse bear religious meaning in the Quran, communicating the sense of divine presence, urgency and truth. Grounding his approach in the universal power of story and myth, he provides a unique appreciation of the unparalleled status and unique charisma of the Quran as a religious text and monument of world literature.

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Roads to Paradise: Eschatology and Concepts of the Hereafter in Islam. Edited by Todd Lawson et al. Brill, 2016.

Multi-disciplinary study of Muslim thinking about paradise, death, apocalypse, and the hereafter, and eschatological concepts in the Quran and its exegesis, Sunni and Shi’i traditions, Islamic theology, philosophy, mysticism, and other scholarly disciplines reflecting Islamicate pluralism and cosmopolitanism. Gathering material from all parts of the Muslim world, ranging from Islamic Spain to Indonesia, and the entirety of Islamic history, this publication in two volumes also integrates research from comparative religion, art history, sociology, anthropology and literary studies. (2 volumes, 1493 pp.)

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Baha’i History: A Special Issue of the Journal of Religious History. Edited by Todd Lawson. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

Published during the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s North American visit, the nine scholarly articles collected here shed new light on various aspects of Baha’i history.

See the Table of Contents and order the journal from See a sample essay, “Baha’i Religious History,” by Todd Lawson.


A Most Noble Pattern: Collected Essays on the Writings of the Báb,`Alí Muhammad Shirazi (1819-1850). Edited by Todd Lawson and Omid Ghaemmaghami. Oxford: George Ronald, 2012.

This collection of 16 essays by many of the leading specialists on the sometimes very difficult and challenging writings of the Báb disclose simultaneously the similarity to traditional Iranian Shi’i culture of the author’s message and a desire to move beyond it.

See the Table of Contents and order the book from George Ronald.

Also available for download: audio recordings of Dr. Muhammad Afnan, a descendant of the family of the Báb, reading from two of the Báb’s most important works.


Gnostic Apocalypse and Islam: Qur’an, exegesis, messianism, and the literary origins of the Babi Religion. London and New York: Routledge, 2011, 230pp.

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 that intricate and sometimes dazzling corpus for what it has to tell us about the literary making of the Babi movement, its relationship to the wider religious milieu and its profound debt to esoteric Islam, especially Shi’ism. The book will be of interest to students and scholars of Qur’an Commentary, Mysticism, Shi’ism, the modern history of Iran, comparative apocalyptic and messianism.

Order it from Routledge.


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The Crucifixion and the Qur’an: A Study in the History of Muslim Thought. By Todd Lawson. Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2009, 278 pp.

This fascinating work is the product of many years of scholarship. Accentuating the neutrality of the Qur’an’s position, it is suggested that over successive centuries the discussion of the crucifixion within the Islamic tradition was proportionately evolved to accommodate the doctrine of denial in a way which obscured the neutrality of the original Qur’anic position. One can certainly admire the clarity and rigour with which Lawson eloquently presents his arguments and authoritatively marshals the sources, especially given the gamut of materials consulted in this work. The detailed manner by which these sources are introduced and examined within the broader discussion of the crucifixion in Islamic thought makes the book an absorbing read and an importance reference point for material on this subject. Particularly informative is Lawson’s thorough treatment of the historical development of the exegetical materials on the substitution theory, as it reveals the fascinating extent to which this was adapted and fleshed out in the different tafásír. – Mustafa Shah, Journal of Qur’anic Studies (vol. 12, Oct 2010).

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Reason and Inspiration in Islam: Theology, Philosophy and Mysticism in Muslim Thought. London & New York: I.B. Tauris in associaton with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2005, 558 pp.

The treasures of the inner life of Islam are sadly neglected in current debates, descriptions and studies. This book attempts to reorient the focus to concentrate on the experience and expression of the spiritual realm where problems of being, identity, authority, mind, love and soul are studied from a variety of perspectives. The 38 articles represent new research by leading figures in the contemporary study of Islam. Read online.
“The richness of the volume cannot fairly be described in a short review. . . . It is a veritable one-volume encyclopaedia of contemporary scholarship tapping the themes of theology, philosophy and mysticism in the history of Islamic thought . . . and highly recommended for all who are genuinely interested, professionally or otherwise, in the Islamic tradition.” David Waines, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Religious Studies, Lancaster University, U.K.

selected publications

  • “Muhammad as Educator, Islam as Enlightenment, and the Quran as Sacred Epic,” in Knowledge and Education in Classical Islam, ed. Sebastian Gunther (Brill, 2020), pp. 81-97. Read online.
  • “The Bahá’í Tradition: The Return of Joseph and the Peaceable Imagination,” in Fighting Words: Religion, Violence, and the Interpretation of Sacred Texts, ed. John Renard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), pp. 135-157. Read online.
  • “Typological Figuration and the Meaning of “Spiritual”: The Qurʾanic Story of Joseph.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 132:2 (2012), pp. 221-244. Read online.
  • “Apocalypse,” in Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, ed. Gerhard Bowering, pp. 38-39 (Princeton University Press, 2012). Read online.
  • “Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahsa’i and the World of Images,” in Shi’i Trends and Dynamics in Modern Times, ed. Denis Hermann and Sabrina Mervin, pages 19-31 (Beirut: Ergon Verlag Würzburg, 2010). Read online.
  • “Coherent Chaos and Chaotic Cosmos: The Qur’an and the Symmetry of Truth,” in Weltkonstruktionen: Religiöse Weltdeutung zwischen Chaos und Kosmos vom Alten Orient bis zum Islam, Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 5, Herausgegeben von Peter Gemeinhardt und Annette Zgoll (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2010), pp. 177-193. Read online.
  • “A 14th Century Shí’i Gnostic Rajab Bursí and his Masháriq al-Anwár,” in Ishraq: Islamic Philosophy Yearbook/ Ишрак: Ежегодник исламской философии, Russian Academy of Sciences, Iranian Institute of Philosophy (Moscow: Languages of Slavonic Cultures), No. 1 (2010): 422-438. See more info and read online.
  • “Le Coran et l’imaginaire apocalyptique,” trans. Gabrielle Rivier from “The Qur’an and the Apocalyptic Imagination,” in Religions et Histoire vol. 34, (Sept/Oct 2010), pp. 48-53.

    read online, French

    read online, English

  • “Divine Wrath and Divine Mercy in Islam: Their Reflection in the Qur’án and Quranic Images of Water,” Divine Wrath and Divine Mercy in the World of Antiquity, edited by Reinhard G. Kratz and Hermann Spieckermann  (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), pp. 248-267. Read online.
  • Guest editor, “Texts and Society” special issue of American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 25:3 (2008).
  • “Duality, Opposition and Typology in the Qur’an: The Apocalyptic Substrate,” in Journal of Qur’anic Studies 10:2 (2008), pp. 23-49. Read online.
  • “The Qur’an as Matrix of Islamic Society and Civilization”, AJISS, vol. 25, no. 3 (2008): i-iv.
  • Globalization and the Hidden Words” in Bahai and Globalization eds. A. Hvithamar, M. Warburg & M. Warmind, Copenhagen: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 2005, pp. 32-49.
  • Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy in Twelver Shi’ism: Ahmad al-Ahsa’i on Fayd Kashani (the Risalat al-‘Ilmiyya),” in Religion and Society in Qajar Iran, ed. Robert Gleave, London & New York: Routledge-Curzon, 2005, pp. 127-54. Read online.
  • The Bab’s Epistle on the Spiritual Journey towards God: provisional translation, commentary and preliminary edition of the Arabic text of the Risalatus’suluk” in The Baha’i Faith and the World Religions, ed. Moojan Momen, Oxford: George Ronald, [2005], pp. 231-47.
  • Seeing Double: The Covenant and the Tablet of Ahmad,” in The Baha’i Faith and the World Religions, ed. Moojan Momen Oxford: George Ronald, [2005], pp. 39-87.
  • The Hidden Words of Fayz Kashani,” Actes du 4e Colloque de la Societas Iranologica Europaea, Paris, septembre 1999 in vol. 2, Cahiers de Studia Islamica ed. M. Szuppe et al. (Leuven 2002): 427-447. Read online.
  • The Authority of the Feminine and Fatima,” The Most Learned of the Shi’a, edited by Linda Walbridge, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 94-127.
  • Qur’an Commentary as Sacred Performance,” in Der Iran um 19 Jahrhundert und die Enstehung der Baha’i Religion. Edited by Johann-Christoph Burgel & Isabel Schayani. Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim, 1998, pp.145-58.
  • The Dangers of Reading: Inlibration, Communion and Transference in Qur’an Commentary,” in Scripture and Revelation, edited by Moojan Momen, George Ronald: Oxford, 1997, pp.171-215.
  • The Qur’an and Religious Pluralism” in Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in a Multicultural Society, Foreword by Prof. Hanna Kassis, Department of Religious Studies, University of British Columbia, 1993, pp. 55-64. Read online.
  • Akhbari Shi’i Approaches to tafsir,” in Approaches to the Qur’an, edited by G.R. Hawting & Abdul-Kader A. Shareef, Routledge: New York & London, 1993, pp.173-210. Read online.
  • The Structure of Existence in the Bab’s Tafsir and the Perfect Man Motif” in Studia Iranica: Cahiers 11: Recurrent Patterns in Iranian Religions from Mazdaism to Sufism. Proceedings of the Round Table held in Bamberg (30th September – 4th October 1991). Association pour l’avancement des Études iraniennes, 1992, pp.81-99.
  • Note for the Study of a ‘Shi’i Qur’an’,” Journal of Semitic Studies, 36 (1991) 279-295. Read online.
  • The Dawning Places of the Lights of Certainty in the Divine Secrets Connected with the Commander of the Faithful by Rajab Bursi,” in The Legacy of Mediaeval Persian Sufism, edited by Leonard Lewisohn, Foreword by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Introduction by S.H. Nasr. Khaniqahai Nimatullahi Publications (London) in association with SOAS Centre of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, University of London: London, 1992, pp. 261-276. Read online.
  • The Crucifixion of Jesus in the Qur’an and Qur’anic Commentary: A Historical Survey (Parts I&II),” The Bulletin of Henry Martyn Institute of Islamic Studies, vol.10 no.2 (April-June 1991) pp. 34-62 & vol.10 no.3 (July-September 1991) pp. 6-40.
  • The Terms Remembrance (dhikr) and Gate (báb) in the Bab’s Commentary on the Sura of Joseph,” Bábi and Bahá’í Studies in Honour of H.M. Balyuzi, ed. M. Momen, Kalimat Press, Los Angeles, 1989, pp. 1-63.
  • Interpretation as Revelation: The Qur’án Commentary of Sayyid ‘Ali Muhammad Shirazi, the Bab,” in Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur’án, ed. A. Rippin. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1988, pp. 223-253.

Encyclopedia Articles

  • “Abū l-Qāsim Khān Kirmānī Ibrāhīmī”, in Encyclopaedia of Islam III, ed. Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Consulted online on 07 Dec. 2016 at <>; first published online 2009. Read online.
  • Hermeneutics of Pre-modern Islamic and Shi’ite Exegesis,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 12, fasc. 3. Read online: draft version, in text, or published version, images only.
  • Exegesis iii: Akhbárí and post-Safavid esoteric Shí’í Exegesis,” Encyclopaedia Iranica vol. 7, pp. 118-20.
  • Exegesis: Bábí and Bahá’í,” Encyclopaedia Iranica,
  • Ebn Abí Jomhúr al-Ahsá’í,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. 7, pp. 662-3. Read online.
  • Bahá’í,” Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, Editor in Chief, John L. Esposito, Oxford University Press: New York & Oxford, 1995, vol. 1, pp.177-182.
  • Martyrdom,” Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, Editor in Chief, John L. Esposito, Oxford University Press: New York & Oxford, 1995, vol. 3, pp.54-59.
  • Naw Rúz,” Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, Editor in Chief, John L. Esposito, Oxford University Press: New York & Oxford, 1995, vol. 3, pp.243-244.
  • Qayyúm al-asmá,” Encyclopédie philosophique universelle: Les Oeuvres philosophiques. Volume III, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1992.

Other Articles

  • “The Qur’an and the Baha’i Faith,” in Communities of the Qur’an: Dialogue, debate and diversity in the twenty-first century, ed. Emran El-Badawi and Paula Sanders. London: Oneworld Academic, 2019, pp. 156-176. Read online.
  • “The Qur’an and Epic,” in Journal of Qur’anic Studies, 16:1, pp. 58-92, at <>. Available online in earlier draft ““The Epic Voice of the Qur’an: Some Preliminary Considerations.”
  • al-Fárábí,” Who’s Who in Religion, Edited by John R. Hinnells. London: Macmillan Press, 1991, pp.118-119.
  • Ibn Rushd,” Who’s Who in Religion, Edited by John R. Hinnells. London: Macmillan Press, 1991, pp.171-172.
  • Ibn Síná,” Who’s Who in Religion, Edited by John R. Hinnells. London: Macmillan Press, 1991, p.172.
  • Fifteen entries for John Esposito (ed) The Oxford Dictionary of Islam: Abraha, Abu Jahl, Abu Lahab, Ad, Destiny, al-Khidr, Kiswah, Maktub, Manasik, Mourning, Sabil, al-Sarakhshi, Sayf, Tahrif, Zabur.

Book Reviews

  • Issa Boullata (ed.), Literary Structures of Religious Meaning London: Curzon, 1999, International Journal of Middle East Studies 35 (2003): 493-4. Review. Read online.
  • Fritz Meier, Essays on Islamic Piety and Mysticism, translated by John O’Kane with editorial assistance of Bernd Radtke, Brill: Leiden, 1999. International Journal of Middle East Studies 35 (2003). Review. Read online.
  • Studies in Islamic and Middle Eastern Texts and Traditions in Memory of Norman Calder, eds G.R. Hawting, J.A. Mojaddedi, A. Samely, Oxford University Press, 2000, in Middle East and South Asia Folklore Bulletin (Fall 2001) pp.4-5.
  • S. Schmidtke (ed.) Correspondance Corbin-Ivanow (Paris 1999) for Iranian Studies.
  • Louis Massignon et l’Iran eds. Pierunek et Richard (Paris 200) for Iranian Studies.
  • D. Marshall, God, Muhammad and the Unbelievers (London, 1999) for Journal of the American Oriental Society.
  • Ibn Warraq (ed.) The Origins of the Koran (Amherst, N.Y., 1998) for Journal of the American Oriental Society.
  • Michel Lagarde, Index du Grand Commentaire de Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Handbuch der orientalistik Erste Abteilung der Nahe und Mittlere Osten Zweiundzwanzigster Band. E.J. Brill: Leiden, New York, Köln, 1996, 82pp plus 358 pp, for Journal of the American Oriental Society.
  • Abbas Amanat, Pivot of the Universe: Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831-1896 University of California Press, 1997, in Canadian Journal of History /Annales canadiennes d’histoire, 33 (1998): 137-8.
  • Yann Richard. Shiite Islam; polity, ideology, and creed. Blackwell, 1995 in Canadian Journal of History, 32 (1997): 142-3.
  • Louis Massignon. Hallaj: Mystic and Martyr, translated, edited, and abridged by Herbert Mason; Bollingen Series XCVIII, Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1994 in International Journal of Middle East Studies, 29 (1997): 280-1. Read online.
  • Richard Bell. A Commentary on the Qur’án. 2 vols. eds. C. Edmund Bosworth and M.E.J. Richardson. Manchester: The Victoria University of Manchester, 1991, for: Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 56:1 (1997): 53-4.
  • Lenn E. Goodman. Avicenna. London: Routledge, 1991, in Journal of Semitic Studies 40 (1995): 85-86.
  • Ian Netton. al-Farabi and His School. London: Routledge, 1992 in Journal of Semitic Studies 40 (1995): 85-86.
  • Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi, al-Maqasid: Imam Nawawi’s Manual of Islam, translation and appendices by Noah Ha Mim Keller, Evanston, Il.: Sunna Books, 1994 in Journal of the American Oriental Society, 115 (1995).
  • Barbara F. Stowasser, Women in the Qur’an, Traditions, and Interpretation, New York, 1994 in Journal of the American Oriental Society 116 (1996): 323-4
  • Bahá’u’lláh (Mirza Husayn ‘Ali). The Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Bahá’í World Centre: Haifa, Israel, 1992 in: Iranian Studies, 29 (1996): 207-9.
  • Sarwat Anis al-Assiouty, Révolutionaires et Contre-Révolutionaires parmi les disciples de Jésus et les compagnons de Muhammad. Letouzy & Ané: Paris, 1994 in: Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 34:1 (Winter, 1997): 151.
  • Francis E. Peters. Muhammad and the Origins of Islam. State University of New York Press: Albany, 1994 for The Journal of Religion, 75 (1995): 602-4.
  • Th. Emil Homerin. From Arab Poet to Muslim Saint: Ibn al-Farid, His Verse, and His Shrine. University of South Carolina Press: Columbia, South Carolina, 1994 in: International Journal of Middle East Studies 27 (1995):.
  • Denis MacEoin. The Sources for Early Babi Doctrine and History: A Survey, Journal of Semitic Studies, 38 (1993): 355-7.
  • Jane Dammen McAuliffe. Qur’ánic Christians: An Analysis of Classical and Modern Exegesis. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1991 for International Journal of Middle East Studies 25:1 (1993): 149-51.
  • Neighbours: Muslims in North America. Interviews by Elias D. Mallon. New York: Friendship Press, 1989 in Journal of Ecumenical Studies 28:4 (Fall 1991): 656.
  • Harvey Cox, Many Mansions in Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 27:1 (1990): 158.
  • Stuart Brown (comp.) Meeting in Faith in Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 27:4 (1990): 793-4.
  • Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal in Iranian Studies, 22:4 (1989): 112-113.
  • The Commentary on the Qur’an (Cooper’s trans. of Tafsir Tabari) for International Journal of Middle East Studies, 22:3 (August 1990): 352-355.
  • The Islamic World, (McNeill & Waldman, eds.) in Religious Studies and Theology, 5 (1985): 99-100.
  • Abu Fadl Gulpaygani, Miracles and Metaphors, (Trans. J.R. Cole) in Religious Studies Review, 11:2 (1985):.
  • Studies in Bábí and Bahá’í History. Vol. 1 (ed. M. Momen) in Religious Studies Review, 11:2 (1985):.
  • Shahrastani (Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Karim), Muslim Sects and Divisions (trans. Kazi & Flynn) in Religious Studies and Theology, 6:1&2 (1986): 59-61.