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Montreal, October 27, 2019 - One of the highlights of the celebration of the Bicentenary of the birth of the Báb in Montreal was surely the series of five talks given by Dr. Todd Lawson, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Toronto University.

These series of lectures, given once a year, are in memory of Raymond Flournoy – a long standing member of the Montreal Bahá’í Community -  were focussed on the Life  and earliest Writings of the Báb. The series started with an Introduction to the society in which the Báb lived, His life and Writings before He was 25 years old as well as the Writings which were composed specially before 22 May 1844, the date of His Proclamation to Mullá Husayn in Shiraz.

The series continued with the Báb’s mystical and spiritual experiences, especially in the early months of 1844, His proclamation to Mullá Husayn, revelation  of Qayyúm al-Asmá, focussing on the first chapter entitled, The Surih of Dominion.

The culmination of the series was an emotional experience listening to Todd speaking about the Portrait of the Prophet as a Young Artist! The images of the Báb’s handwriting and His exquisite calligraphic work representing a human temple in a form of a five pointed star was truely astounding! Other pieces such as a circular calligraphic work and various styles of the Báb’s handwriting were also presented.

Todd Lawson is Emeritus Professor of Islamic thought at the University of Toronto. He has published widely on Quran commentary, the Quran as literature, Sufism, and the Bábi and Bahá’í Faiths. His books, The Crucifixion and the Quran was published in 2009, followed by Gnostic Apocalypse and Islam in 2011, the Quran as sacred epic and the most recent one, Being Human in 2019. He is also the editor of Reason and Inspiration in Islam, a collection of essays bringing together the disciplines of theology, philosophy and mysticism.

Todd is convinced that the main things to appreciate is the enormous debt that society, humanity and civilisation at large owes to Islam and the Islamic venture. This has been his ongoing interest. In his surprise when he came to Canada in January of 1968, the first people he met were the Bahá’ís. it was through reading some of the Bahá’í texts that he eventually came to realise that they were full of references to the Quran, and to the Prophet Muhammad and to Islamic spirituality. And that is how all started!

*About illustrations : An unidentified pentacle by the Báb, which according to the caption under the image is "from the reproduction in Qismati az alwah-i-khatt-i-Nuqta-yi Ula," p. 26. Note also a description from Shoghi Effendi, in God Passes By page 69:

It was exclusively to His [Bahá'u'lláh's] care that the documents of the Báb, His pen-case, His seals, and agate rings, together with a scroll on which He had penned, in the form of a pentacle, no less than three hundred and sixty derivatives of the word Bahá’ were delivered, in conformity with instructions He Himself had issued prior to His departure from Chihriq.

The circular shaped talisman drawn by the Báb is also unidentified. Notice the faint imprint from a da'ira towards the bottom.

Da'ira and haykal both mean "talisman," the former being specifically a circular talisman and the latter being (usually) pentacular or square. Peter Smith explains that "the idea that physical object can provide the wearer with some form of supernatural protection" is common in religions around the world. "The Báb instructed his followers to make and wear talismans, and there are numerous references to these in his writings." While the Bahá'í teachings de-emphasize such esoteric practices, there are prayers and other Writings that mention or provide talismanic protection. (Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith, q.v. talisman) Khazeh Fananapazir adds that in the Persian Bayan the Báb refers to men as "those who possess the hayákil ('ulu'l-hayákil)" and women as "those who possess the dawá'ir ('ulu'l-dawá'ir)" (bayán-i fársí IV:4-5).

 

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