published in Lights of Irfan, Volume 5, pages 41-58 Wilmette, IL: Irfan Colloquia, 2004
The Báb was a strong reader - some would say a strange reader - of the canonical texts of Islam. The bulk of his earliest writings were in the form of commentaries on these texts. In my presentation, I will discuss the radical notions of textuality underlying the Báb's Qur'ánic commentaries. Drawing upon categories from contemporary literary studies, I will first provide a framework for my discussion of textuality. I will then discuss the history of Qur'ánic commentary in Islam in light of these categories, focusing on elements in Akhbári Shi'i religious thought that can be seen to underpin the Bab's novel approach to the Qur'ánic text. Far from being traditional commentaries, I will argue, the Báb's readings of the Qur'án were messianic performances, enunciations of an eschatological restoration of the Imam, the cosmos, and of the Qur'án itself.