- Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset for 19 days. While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.
Sydney-based scholar Boris Handal has published a new book that provides a systematic overview of the Bab’s teachings as well as His laws and ordinances. This easy-to-read work, titled The Dispensation of the Bab, brings together many aspects of the religion of the Bab that are not easily found elsewhere and it shows the extent to which the Bab’s laws have been carried forward into the Baha’i Revelation.
Boris kindly agreed to tell us about his latest book and we were eager to hear all about it.
Can you please tell us about your latest book, The Dispensation of the Bab ?
This book relies on over 600 passages from the Writings of the Bab and presents a panoramic view of His teachings that highlight His position as an independent Messenger of God. In addition, the fundamentals of the Revelation of the Bab are examined through His own writings as well as through the elucidations of Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. The book also deals with the continuity between the teachings of the Bab and the teachings of Baha’u’llah from a doctrinal and legislative perspective, emphasising the Figure of Him Whom God shall make manifest. It explores in detail the conditions in which He Whom God shall make manifest (Baha’u’llah) would appear after the death of the Bab.
What inspired you to write it?
I decided to write this book about the Revelation of the Bab because I found a wonderful treasure of spiritual and mystical gems in His teachings. I always wanted to know what the Bab taught about the nature of God and His creation in the context of God’s progressive revelation throughout history. It took me to research the vastness of His written works, particularly on the Qayyumu’l-Asma and The Persian Bayan. I also delved into the many purposes of the religion of the Bab, including its greatness, the universality of His mandate and the aggressive opposition that the new teachings attracted in nineteenth-century Persia.
I also felt that there was a need to study the Bab from the perspective of His texts and address the needs of Western audiences. A balance has been attempted to convey not only the “Oriental” context but also the Western perspective. Hence, connections have been made to New and Old Testament related themes to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian dimension embedded in the Babi Faith.
What is something unexpected you learned in the process of writing this book?
I managed over the years to learn about the history of the Babi Faith, mostly from The Dawn-Breakers. However, I felt that there was not enough material available about the religion of the Bab, such as His writings, His teachings, and His impact on the Iranian society and its role hastening of the advent of the Bahaʼi Faith. For instance, the second part pertains to examples from Bab’s Writings on ethical, moral and mystical concepts, including individual and community exhortations and prohibitions, both social and personal. There is also a description of the Writings of the Bab regarding social development.
You have written several books about 19th-century Persian history and culture and the early history of the Bahaʼi Faith. What is it about that time period that keeps calling you back?
From an early age, as a new Bahaʼi youth, I was always fascinated by the many people who sacrificed everything for the Cause they believed in. This led me to learn more about the source of their inspiration and when those dramatic episodes took place.
What can that time period teach us about our work to build vibrant communities today?
Those early believers’ qualities and attitudes, the spirit of heroism and sacrifice, exemplified the attitudes we need to build vibrant communities nowadays.
Thank you, Boris, for taking the time to share this with us.
You can purchase The Dispensation of the Bab from a variety of book retailers including Bahaibooks.com.au in Australia.
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