One of the early Tablets revealed in Adrianople is the Súriy-i-Asháb (Súrih of Companions). This Tablet played a significant role in the unveiling of the station of Bahá'u'lláh to the Bábís of Persia. It is a lengthy Tablet in Arabic and is addressed to Mírzá Áqáy-i-Muníb.* Bahá'u'lláh addresses the recipient of this Tablet as Habíb (Friend) and in one instance He mentions Muníb by name. This appears to have led some scholars of the Faith to state that this Tablet was revealed for Mírzá Habíb-i-Marághi'í and that Muníb was also addressed in it. A careful study of the Tablet and other historical facts, however, make it clear beyond doubt that it was revealed for Mírzá Áqáy-i-Muníb whom He addressed as Habíb. When Jináb-i-Muníb received this important Tablet, He arose with wisdom and courage to disclose the station of Bahá'u'lláh to those Bábís whom he considered faithful.
In order to appreciate the significance of the Súriy-i-Asháb and other early Tablets revealed in Adrianople, one must become more familiar with the state of the Bábí Community in Persia before and after the Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh. Knowledge of this background is helpful in acquiring a better insight into the writings of Bahá'u'lláh during this period.
Ever since the days of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád, the great majority of believers in Persia had increasingly turned to Him as the focal point of the Bábí community. To Him they went for help and enlightenment and from Him received their guidance. His spiritual ascendancy and influence were so strikingly manifest that even the enemies of the Cause had felt their force.
* See vol. 1, pp. 283-7 for further information about him.
For instance, as we have already learned, a congregation of the divines of Shí'ah Islám in 'Iráq demanded the performance of a miracle from Him, even though at that stage He had not claimed a station for Himself. It is clearly demonstrated that Bahá'u'lláh alone was the fountain-head of spiritual potency and the source of guidance for the Bábí community after the martyrdom of the Báb in 1850.
Many believers who had attained His presence in Baghdád had recognized His station while His glory was still wrapped within a 'myriad veils of light'.1 Others had been forcefully struck by the manifold evidences of His supreme authority and innate knowledge. During the ten years of Bahá'u'lláh's sojourn in 'Iráq, these believers, on their return to their native lands, had described His greatness to their fellow believers and each according to his understanding extolled His virtues and powers. Added to these personal accounts of Bahá'u'lláh, numerous Tablets and Books streaming from His pen had enabled the majority of the believers to appreciate the unique and exalted position that He held within the community.
The State of the Bábí Community
But alas that human beings are not always sincere or faithful. There were those who were corrupt and egotistical and who longed for leadership. A few such men in various towns in Persia made mischief among the believers. They considered themselves followers of the Báb, but acted against His commandments and exhortations. Some of them had attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, only to become jealous of His rising prestige and authority. These men congregated around Mírzá Yahyá not because he had any outstanding qualities, nor because they particularly liked him, but rather because of their opposition to Bahá'u'lláh. For instance, Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání had no doubt concerning Mírzá Yahyá's weakness and superficial knowledge. Many times had he defeated Mírzá Yahyá in the course of an argument. The latter had always
1. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 151.
grown angry on these occasions. Once, before the days of Adrianople, he was so irritated by Siyyid Muhammad's belittling of him that he took his complaint to Bahá'u'lláh Who called Siyyid Muhammad, rebuked him for his behaviour and instructed him to leave Mírzá Yahyá alone.
To cite another example: once Shaykh Salmán, the devoted servant of Bahá'u'lláh and entitled by Him 'The Messenger of the Merciful',* asked Mírzá Yahyá to explain the meaning of a certain poem of Sa'dí. Mírzá Yahyá complied with this request and Shaykh Salmán received his reply. Upon reading the explanation, Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání reported to Bahá'u'lláh that the reply was inadequate and shallow and requested Him to stop Shaykh Salmán from taking such misleading statements to Persia. Furthermore, Siyyid Muhammad, accompanied by Hájí Mírzá Ahmad-i-Káshání, † went to the house of Áqáy-i-Kalím. (Bahá'u'lláh's faithful brother) and there proved to Mírzá Yahyá that his explanations were erroneous. Yet from the early days in Baghdád, men such as these were spreading highly complimentary remarks about Mírzá Yahyá within the Bábí community in Persia. They circulated unfounded reports about his greatness and claimed that he was the successor to the Báb, that all the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh had emanated from Mírzá Yahyá, and that Bahá'u'lláh had usurped his position and forced him to hide himself away. Propaganda such as this always confuses the minds of simple-hearted people, especially when the great majority of them had never known Mírzá Yahyá. During the ten years of his sojourn in 'Iráq he had so effectively disguised himself that even a considerable number of believers who had lived there for years did not know him. For instance, when he joined Bahá'u'lláh's party at Mosul, he was able to introduce himself as a stranger, and some of Bahá'u'lláh's companions did not know his real identity. The fact that he was the nominee of the Báb was sufficient for the
* See vol. 1, pp. 109-13.
† One of the unfaithful who became a follower of Mírzá Yahyá. See chapter 6.
rank and file of the believers to attach great importance to him.
However, most Bábís who had been able to meet Mírzá Yahyá were struck by his ignorance and cowardice. These men had no doubt about the station of Bahá'u'lláh and were convinced that Mírzá Yahyá was merely a figure-head appointed by the Báb for the purpose of diverting attention from Bahá'u'lláh. But those who had not attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh were often confused by rumours and controversy among the Bábís concerning the position of Mírzá Yahyá.
Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí has left to posterity a vivid picture of the Bábí community in certain parts of Persia during the latter part of Bahá'u'lláh's sojourn in Baghdád, soon after the revelation of the Kitáb-i-Íqán. This account illustrates the turmoil and agitation created by Mírzá Yahyá's supporters and draws attention to their misrepresentations. These are his words as he recalls the early days of his conversion to the Bábí Faith:
Although I was persecuted several times in Isfahán and suffered great hardships and ill-treatment, I was happy, on fire with the Faith, attracted and in love with the Writings and Tablets of the Báb, especially the Persian Bayán. I made two copies of this Book. The more I read it the more eager I became to read further. In those days everyone was convinced that the coming of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' was at hand. I often used to say...that if the Dispensation of the Báb...were not followed immediately by the Dispensation of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', then all the writings, tablets and testimonies of the Báb would remain unfulfilled and were useless. I did not have a heart-felt regard for Azal.* I used to remark, 'What is the difference between the hidden Azal and the Hidden Qá'im? †...' Furthermore, I regarded his writings to be truly nonsensical,
* Mírzá Yahyá. (A.T.)
† It is believed by the majority of Shí'ah Islám that the promised Qá'im is living, but hidden away from the sight of men. So was Mírzá Yahyá, who lived in disguise and whose whereabouts nobody knew.
except of course his quotations from the Writings of the Báb which were exalted words. However, I used to be condemned by my own conscience for these thoughts, as I had imagined my own understanding to be above that of other people. Then two holy Tablets from the Blessed Beauty...arrived in honour of Zaynu'l-Muqarrabín † and Áqá Muhammad-'Alíy-i-Tambákú-Furúsh from Isfahán. These Tablets captivated me and I became enamoured of the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh.
* Bahá'u'lláh. (A.T.)
† See vol. 1, p. 25.
‡ Bahá'u'lláh. (A.T.)
§ Bahá'u'lláh. (A.T.)
These answers are recorded by Jináb-i-Bahá and published in His own name. Siyyid Muhammad* has journeyed twice from Baghdád to Isfahán on behalf of Azal and has confidentially told the faithful about his loneliness and the wrongs he has suffered!'Eventually Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí decided to go on a retreat for a period of four months. He took four books with him, the Qur'án, the Mathnaví,† the Bayán and the Kitáb-i-Íqán, and went to live in a place away from everyone. He continues his story in these words:
At last I realized that to seclude oneself is a barbaric act and a waste of one's life. In order to acquire the good-pleasure of God and guide the people to Him, one must be self-sacrificing. I was watchful for the advent of the Supreme Manifestation of God, 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. The hypocrisy, lies and machinations of Mír Muhammad-'Alí and Siyyid Muhammad were as clear as the sun to me. Therefore I decided to leave Isfahán.
* Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahání. (A.T.)
† By Jaláli'd-Dín-i-Rúmí.
‡ Bahá'u'lláh. (A.T.)
§ A brother of the second wife of the Báb and a follower of Mírzá Yahyá.
2. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, p. 23 ff.
great difficulties and hardships I visited many places sometimes on foot, sometimes riding, but I was in the utmost joy. I spoke everywhere about the Revelation of the Báb and gave the glad-tidings that the advent of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' was at hand. In many towns I was persecuted, beaten and imprisoned...
bowed and expressed my devotion to him, but he had nothing to say to me.' 3The controversy concerning Mírzá Yahyá's position lasted for the whole of the Baghdád and Constantinople periods, during which time no one openly challenged his position as the nominee of the Báb, and he always stayed near to Bahá'u'lláh for his own protection. It was after his rebellion against Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople that any doubt which had hitherto confused the minds of some pure-hearted men was entirely eradicated.
The Declaration of Bahá'u'lláh in the Garden of Ridván was made only to a few of His companions. The news of this historic event was not communicated to most Bábís until later. The Súriy-i-Asháb and other early Tablets disclosed the station of Bahá'u'lláh clearly and openly. Mírzá Áqáy-i-Muníb shared this important Tablet with many souls. Among them was Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, who describes his feelings when he read this Tablet for the first time in these words:
...I arrived in Tihrán at a time that Mírzá Áqáy-i-Munír*...was also in the city. The Súriy-i-Asháb had been revealed by the Pen of the Lord of Lords in his honour and was received by him. Since he was aware of my convictions and knew that my heart is turned towards the Ancient Beauty† ...he called me and, in private, handed me the Tablet to read. With the perusal of each verse, I felt as if a world of exultation, of certitude and insight was created within me. After reading a few verses with great joy, I asked Mírzá Munír whether Siyyid Muhammad had duped Azal, or Azal duped Siyyid Muhammad, or whether the two of them had joined together in denying and opposing [Bahá'u'lláh] and had taken a course of obstinacy and hostility [against Him]. On hearing this Mírzá Munír was so delighted that he hugged me and said, 'Their enmity towards the Ancient
* Jináb-i-Muníb. (A.T.)
3. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, p. 23 ff.
[Ridván] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas; The Kitáb-i-Íqán; Prayers and Meditations, p. 6; Gleanings From The Writings Of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 31; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, 2, 3, 4
Beauty is the cause of their unity. They deceive and mislead each other so that they may arise in enmity [against Him]'.In the Súriy-i-Asháb Bahá'u'lláh addresses Mírzá Áqáy-i-Muníb with words of love and encouragement. He reminds him of the days when he journeyed with His Lord, when through his insight and devotion he had recognized the truth of His Cause. He bids Muníb thank the Almighty for having raised him from the depths of ignorance and bestowed upon him such favour and bounty. He calls on him, first to detach himself from all that is in heaven and on earth, and then to arise with supreme determination and steadfastness to awaken the people of the Bayán.
When we look at the state of the Bábí community at that time, we realize that Bahá'u'lláh had assigned a tremendous task to Muníb and other teachers, namely, the reorientation of that community and its transformation into a world community destined to embrace in the fullness of time the whole of mankind. The declaration of the station of Bahá'u'lláh as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' in the gatherings of the friends was the most exciting and challenging event since the inception of the Faith two decades before. To counter the unwholesome elements in the Bábí community needed enormous courage, and to guide the pure in heart, great wisdom. Bahá'u'lláh had inspired His emissaries in Persia with these two characteristics.
The following is the testimony of Shaykh Kázim-i-Samandar* who recounts the excitement and agitation among the believers
4. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, p. 51.
when they heard the Súriy-i-Asháb read out to them. He was one of those addressed by Bahá'u'lláh in this Tablet, and therefore Muníb sent him a copy which reached him in his native town of Qazvín.
...He [Muníb] accompanied Bahá'u'lláh from Baghdád and at nights used to carry a lantern in front of Bahá'u'lláh's howdah. He went in His company as far as Constantinople. From there as instructed [by Bahá'u'lláh] he came to Persia. He used to teach the Faith very discreetly, until in Tihrán he received the Súriy-i-Asháb which was revealed in his name. By Bahá'u'lláh's permission he gradually removed the veil from the glorious countenance of the Cause. As a result, the trumpet was sounded and a new fervour and enthusiasm were created among the friends. Through earnest striving and by careful investigation each one was enabled to cross this delicate Sirát.*Through the creative influence of the Súriy-i-Asháb and other Tablets revealed in this period, and through the dedicated labours of some outstanding teachers of the Faith, the community throughout Persia was gradually cleansed from the ills which Mírzá Yahyá and his supporters had inflicted upon it.
* Literally 'road'. It is believed in Islám that on the Day of judgement a very long bridge will be established and only those who are able to cross it will be saved. This bridge, according to tradition, is sharper than a sword, hotter than fire and thinner than a hair. All this signifies that when the Supreme Manifestation of God appears men will be severely tested and only those who pass the tests will attain to His glory. (A.T.)
5. Shaykh Kázim-i-Samandar, Táríkh-i-Samandar, p. 228.
It took much time and effort on the part of Bahá'u'lláh's valiant heroes until Mírzá Yahyá's satanic influence, his misrepresentations, falsehoods and calumnies, which had polluted the minds of the Bábí community for more than ten years, were eradicated. This process, begun in 1864, took two to three years, during which time the great majority of the Bábís in Persia joined the community of the Most Great Name.
Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí has made an interesting observation on the number of Bábís who entered the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. He explains that Muhammad and the Holy Imáms guided and nourished the nation of Islám for 260 lunar years* so that it might bring forth its fruit through the appearance of the Qá'im, the Promised One. After 1260 years the Báb, who was the fruit of Islám, appeared and yet only approximately one out of every hundred thousand Muslims entered His Faith and followed Him. In contrast to this the Báb guided the people of the Bayán for six years. He constantly gave the glad-tidings of the appearance of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', prepared His followers for His coming, focused their attention on His greatness and glory, sowed the seed of His love in their hearts and watered it with the flow of His words. Consequently, when Bahá'u'lláh manifested His Cause, about ninety-nine per cent of the Bábí community recognized Him and embraced His Cause. Only one per cent through their selfish ambitions withheld themselves from His glory.
The mission of Muníb and other teachers whom Bahá'u'lláh sent to Persia during the early years of His sojourn in Adrianople was primarily to teach the members of the Bábí community. The Súriy-i-Asháb itself is also mainly directed towards the
* After the death of Muhammad the Imáms were the spiritual governors of the Faith of Islám and elucidated its teachings. The last Imám died in the year 260 A.H. According to Bahá'í belief, a verse of the Qur'án anticipated that the promised Qá'im would appear a thousand years after this date, i.e. in 1260 A.H. (A.D. 1844). 'He governeth the Cause [of God] from heaven to earth; hereafter shall It return to Him for one day, whose length shall be a thousand years of those which you compute.' Qur'án, xxxii. 5.
Bábís, and Bahá'u'lláh has addressed several of them by name in this Tablet. In it He unveils the glory of His station and clearly proclaims Himself as the Supreme Manifestation of God whose advent the Báb had foretold. He identifies His person with the prophecy of the Báb concerning the year nine,* and states that through His Revelation the trumpet-blast† has been sounded. He calls on Muníb to proclaim these glad-tidings with courage and faith.
In this Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh explains to the people of the Bayán‡ that He, in essence, is the same Reality as the Báb, and that the same Truth has been manifested again. He admonishes them for their blindness in not recognizing Him the second time, rebukes them for their failure to perceive the creativeness and potency of the Words revealed by Him, notwithstanding their claim that the Words of the Báb constituted the proof of the authenticity of His Message, and warns them that as long as they rejected His Revelation, they would be rejecting all the Revelations of the past including that of the Báb.
The utterances of Bahá'u'lláh reach their climax when He describes the greatness of His Revelation. The beauty and majesty of His words as He glorifies His own station are beyond description. Indeed the perusal of these passages in the original language is bound to ignite a fire in the heart of any sincere and pure-hearted soul, who will testify that no man, however great, can utter such words of consummate power and exalted character.
In peerless language Bahá'u'lláh proclaims that the Sun of His Revelation is shining in the midmost heart of creation, shedding its rays upon the whole world, but the blind are unable to appreciate it. He declares Himself as the sovereign
* 1852-3, the year of the birth of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh in the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán. See vol. 1, chapter 1.
† The sounding of two trumpet-blasts is prophesied in Islám as one of the signs of the Day of Judgement. The prophecy is interpreted as the advent of the Manifestations of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh.
‡ Followers of the Báb.
Lord of all mankind and the Manifestation of God Himself, announces His establishment upon the throne of glory, affirms that no one is capable of undermining His sovereignty, states that the universe is but a handful of dust in His estimation, asserts that one word uttered by Him is sweeter than all that is revealed in the kingdoms of earth and heaven, and praises the true believers who attain His presence and witness the Revelation of His Words.
Since the full text of the Súriy-i-Asháb is not as yet translated into English it is not possible to put into words those exalted passages which Bahá'u'lláh has revealed, nor is it easy to convey their import in a befitting manner. Further, the unfamiliarity of Western readers with the terminology used by the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh makes this task more difficult still. The statements so far made are only poor attempts at describing some of the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh in this Tablet concerning the greatness of His Revelation.
The Station of Bahá'u'lláh
There are innumerable Tablets in which Bahá'u'lláh has proclaimed His station in similar terms. Some passages from these are translated into English by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, and we may do well at this juncture to quote a few.
He it is [Bahá'u'lláh] Who in the Old Testament hath been named Jehovah, Who in the Gospel hath been designated as the Spirit of Truth, and in the Qur'án acclaimed as the Great Announcement.
though that word be the most familiar and commonplace of terms, is invested with supreme, with unique distinction.
wholly independent of all past and future learning. Other knowledges We do as well possess, not a single letter of which We can disclose, nor do We find humanity able to hear even the barest reference to their meaning. Thus have We informed you of the knowledge of God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.6These statements of Bahá'u'lláh can be appreciated only by those who have recognized His station and are fully convinced that the Manifestation of God alone represents the Godhead in this World. He reveals God in every aspect and therefore stands far above the world of humanity. There is no comparison between the Creator and the created. Indeed, the world of being is as utter nothingness compared with the glory of the Manifestation of God. He and He alone can sing His own praise and extol His own virtues. Beyond Him, no one merits to be glorified. For the station of man is that of servitude and as such he is not worthy of mention when face to face with the Manifestation of the power and majesty of God. In the same way that the colours, the beauty and the life of all created things are dependent upon the rays of the sun, man's goodness and virtues all come to light as a result of the appearance of the Manifestation of God.
Although the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is immeasurably great and His station infinitely glorious, He should never be confused with God, the Invisible, the Inaccessible. Shoghi Effendi in explaining this theme writes:
The divinity attributed to so great a Being [Bahá'u'lláh] and the complete incarnation of the names and attributes of God in so exalted a Person should, under no circumstances, be misconceived or misinterpreted. The human temple that has been made the vehicle of so overpowering a Revelation must, if we be faithful to the tenets of our Faith, ever remain entirely distinguished from that 'innermost Spirit of Spirits' and 'eternal Essence of Essences'--that invisible yet rational God Who, however much we extol the divinity of His
6. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 104, 109.
Manifestations on earth, can in no wise incarnate His infinite, His unknowable, His incorruptible and all-embracing Reality in the concrete and limited frame of a mortal being. Indeed, the God Who could so incarnate His own reality would, in the light of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, cease immediately to be God. So crude and fantastic a theory of Divine incarnation is as removed from, and incompatible with, the essentials of Bahá'í belief as are the no less inadmissible pantheistic and anthropomorphic conceptions of God--both of which the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh emphatically repudiate and the fallacy of which they expose...In order to appreciate the claims of Bahá'u'lláh, it is essential to grasp the concept and recognize the functions of the 'Manifestation of God' who appears from age to age. But unfortunately we live in an age when godlessness has spread widely throughout the world and therefore this task becomes difficult. The leaders of religion have so distorted the essence of religion and dimmed its light that a growing number of people, mostly
7. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 112-13.
honest but disillusioned, are joining the ranks of the agnostics and atheists, while the great majority of those who claim to believe in God are not sure what their beliefs entail. The One, the Incomparable, the Omnipotent God, Whose praises have been extolled in all the Holy Books, is now either forgotten in the churches and in the minds of men or has become a subject of controversy, described in countless ways by those who still cling to their old and divided religions. The words 'God' and 'religion' have acquired strange connotations in this age, and this is due to the fact that the light of true religion has been obscured by the corrupt practices and misrepresentations of religious leaders. Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh-i-Misbáh,* one of the great scholars of the Faith, has written this profound and yet simple verse in his marvellous collection of poetry and meditations:
If the bishops had not called vain imaginings religion, the philosophers would not have regarded religion as vain imaginings.8In another instance he writes:
There is one who worships God, yet is attached to an idol; there is another who, although he bows before an idol, is intoxicated with the wine of the Oneness of God.9In many of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has warned that prior to the full establishment of His Cause the forces of irreligion and disbelief will spread in the world. In one instance He testifies:
The vitality of men's belief in God is dying out in every land; nothing short of His wholesome medicine can ever restore it. The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society; what else but the Elixir of His potent Revelation can cleanse and revive it?10Not only is humanity turning towards waywardness and unbelief, but it is losing the language of religion altogether.
* See p. 38.
8. Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh-i-Misbáh, Díván-i-Misbáh, p. 345.
10. Quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 181.
The central theme of religion revolves around the Manifestations of God,* the Founders of the world's great religions. One of the great stumbling-blocks in the way of their recognition, however, is that they appear as ordinary human beings devoid of learning and earthly power. Their apparent helplessness and abasement have led the majority of the people to deny Them. Only those with spiritual eyes have been able to witness the glory hidden behind Their human temples. This is the law of God through which good and evil are separated in this life. One of the governing principles of creation is that man will not be able to receive the bounties of God unless he acquires the capacity for them. The greatest bounty is the recognition of the Manifestation of God, and this is not given to man freely. He must earn it by cleansing the mirror of his heart so that the Sun of Truth may shine within it. The personal circumstances of the Manifestations of God, Who without any apparent greatness or superiority claim to be the vicegerents of God on earth, become the main cause of their rejection by the unbelievers.
In one of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh states:
He Who is the Day Spring of Truth is, no doubt, fully capable of rescuing from such remoteness wayward souls and of causing them to draw nigh unto His court and attain His Presence. 'If God had pleased He had surely made all men one people.' His purpose, however, is to enable the pure in spirit and the detached in heart to ascend, by virtue of their own innate powers, unto the shores of the Most Great Ocean, that thereby they who seek the Beauty of the All-Glorious may be distinguished and separated from the wayward and perverse. Thus hath it been ordained by the all-glorious and resplendent Pen...
* See also vol. 1: 'Manifestations of God'.
the Divine Purpose. Were the Eternal Essence to manifest all that is latent within Him, were He to shine in the plenitude of His glory, none would be found to question His power or repudiate His truth. Nay, all created things would be so dazzled and thunderstruck by the evidences of His light as to be reduced to utter nothingness. How, then, can the godly be differentiated under such circumstances from the froward?11In another Tablet12 He testifies that if the Manifestation of God so desires, He can through only one word conquer the world and possess the hearts of all its inhabitants. Should such a thing happen every man would acknowledge His truth, but there would be no merit in such an acknowledgement. Bahá'u'lláh states that God proves the hearts of His servants, so that good may be differentiated from evil. To bring this about, His Manifestations occasionally reveal the tokens of His glory and power and withhold them at other times. There are indications which point to the fact that on numerous occasions Bahá'u'lláh deliberately concealed from men, in order to test them, the signs of His all-encompassing knowledge and the tokens of His power. He drew a veil before His glory and therefore to many who were devoid of a penetrating insight He appeared to be unendowed with divine attributes. The trials associated with the coming of the Manifestation of God are so great that even some who recognize Him and claim allegiance to His Cause find themselves unable to withstand these tests. Their faith and belief eventually wither and die. There are others who, through pride and ambition, aspire to achieve the same ascendancy as the Manifestation of God. Several people of note who came in contact with Bahá'u'lláh witnessed His greatness, but in their delusion sought to elevate themselves to His position. The basic reason for their blindness was that they gloried in their own accomplishments. The Manifestation of God occupies a station far beyond the understanding of man. He dwells in a realm exalted above all created things. When He manifests Himself to man, He has no alternative but to communicate His Message in the language of
11. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section xxix.
12. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. IV, p. 155.
man. But because he does this, He is looked upon as an ordinary human being, devoid of any divine powers.
In one of His Tablets13 Bahá'u'lláh mentions that people are suffering from a disease which is very difficult to cure, namely, that those who have acquired a small measure of understanding and knowledge consider the Manifestation of God to be like themselves. They judge Him according to their own standards and therefore fail to appreciate His station. Bahá'u'lláh affirms that many are suffering from this disease today. He prays that God may remove the veil from their hearts so that they may recognize their own worth and be enabled to distinguish between the truth of His Cause and the affairs of men.
In the Súriy-i-Asháb, Bahá'u'lláh declares that nothing will benefit man in this day except love for Him. This love cannot be created in the hearts of men unless they purify themselves from attachment to all things. Then, and only then, He affirms, will the mirrors of their hearts reflect the image of His resplendent Beauty. Bahá'u'lláh confirms this in The Hidden Words:
O Son of Spirit!Addressing the Bábí community He warns them in the Súriy-i-Asháb that this is not the day of questioning, for He who from eternity was hidden from the eyes of men is now come. He rebukes them for having failed to witness His glory and omnipotence. Alluding to the words of the Báb concerning the creative power conferred upon 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', Bahá'u'lláh asserts that all created things have come into being through a word of His mouth and in challenging language affirms that there is no soul among the whole of creation who has the power to stand before Him and utter one word in His presence. He testifies that every soul is humbled by the evidences of His sovereignty. He concludes with this moving challenge:
13. Bahá'u'lláh, Iqtidárát, p. 85.
14. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, no. 1, Arabic.
Within the throat of this Youth there lie prisoned accents which, if revealed to mankind to an extent smaller than a needle's eye, would suffice to cause every mountain to crumble, the leaves of the trees to be discoloured and their fruits to fall; would compel every head to bow down in worship and every face to turn in adoration towards this omnipotent Ruler Who, at sundry times and in diverse manners, appeareth as a devouring flame, as a billowing ocean, as a radiant light, as the tree which, rooted in the soil of holiness, lifteth its branches and spreadeth out its limbs as far as and beyond the throne of deathless glory.15Similar statements are to be found in other Tablets. For instance, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh proclaims:
O ye leaders of religion! Who is the man amongst you that can rival Me in vision or insight? Where is he to be found that dareth to claim to be My equal in utterance or wisdom? No, by My Lord, the All-Merciful! All on the earth shall pass away; and this is the face of your Lord, the Almighty, the Well-Beloved.16One of the unique features of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is that for about ten years its Author chose not to disclose His station to the followers of the Báb, and yet during that period He revealed the verses of God unceasingly. Many were attracted to His person and those who had spiritual insight were able to recognize Him as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', the Promised One of the Bayán. But He made no claim during that time, and counselled those who knew of His exalted station not to divulge it to others.
In the Súriy-i-Asháb Bahá'u'lláh explains the reason for this. He states that He unveiled His Cause gradually as a mercy to mankind. For had the light of so potent a Revelation been allowed to break upon the world suddenly, those who were spiritually weak would have been dazzled by its glory and would have perished by its impact.
In another instance in the same Tablet Bahá'u'lláh mentions
15. From the Súriy-i-Asháb, translated by Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 108-9.
16. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section xcviii.
["O ye leaders of religion!..."] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶101, The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 3 p. 163
that should He disclose the full potency of His Word,* the earth would quake and the heavens be cleft asunder. However, by an act of concealment God has shown forbearance and mercy towards His servants. Indeed, as we survey the history of the Faith, we note that the Báb too unveiled His exalted station gradually to the eyes of men. He who was the 'King of Messengers', the Promised One of Islám and the 'Primal Point' from which was generated all created things, consented, in the early days of His Revelation, as a token of His loving-kindness to men, to be known merely as the Báb (Gate), believed by the Shí'ahs to be the intermediary between the Promised Qá'im and the people.† That claim was not as challenging as the subsequent revelation that He was the Qá'im Himself. As His followers acquired the capacity to bear the weight of His Message, He progressively revealed His station to them.
The Command to Avoid sedition
In the Súriy-i-Asháb Bahá'u'lláh exhorts His companions to arise for the promotion of His Faith, and warns them that the sword will not bring victory to the Cause of God. The Cause will be exalted by pure deeds, detachment from all earthly things, and steadfastness in His love. In this connection Bahá'u'lláh gives His companions a directive: that if the army of the deniers should attack them, they should defeat it through the power of His Word and not resort to force.‡
* The significance and potency of the Word of God is more fully explained in vol. 1.
† Although the claim of the Báb was that he was the 'Gate' to a greater revelation than His own, nevertheless the general public recognized the title of the Báb as indicating that He was the intermediary between the Qá'im and the people. In fact, some of His followers lost their faith or were shaken when they heard His claim to be the Qá'im Himself. See for instance the story of 'Azím, The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 227-8 (Brit.), p. 313 (U.S.).
‡ See also vol. 1, pp. 278-9.
One of the most important injunctions of Bahá'u'lláh which appears in this and many other Tablets is to avoid stirring up sedition and mischief. This commandment is the basis of Bahá'í life and affects both the individual and society. It protects the soul from ungodliness and the community from corruption. In one of His Tablets17 Bahá'u'lláh says that the believers should never take part in any affair from which the slightest odour of mischief or dissension may be detected. He exhorts them to flee from it as one would flee from a serpent.
In another Tablet He states:
O ye that dwell on earth! The distinguishing feature that marketh the pre-eminent character of this Supreme Revelation consisteth in that We have, on the one hand, blotted out from the pages of God's holy Book whatsoever hath been the cause of strife, of malice and mischief amongst the children of men, and have, on the other, laid down the essential prerequisites of concord, of understanding, of complete and enduring unity. Well is it with them that keep My statutes.As the gloom of strife and sedition deepens in the world today and mankind is helplessly drawn into its dark abyss, it becomes increasingly difficult to find any cause, whether religious, political or social, which can possibly be free from the 'odour of mischief'. On the other hand, the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, which stands for unity and fellowship among the peoples of the world, intrinsically repels any attempt by individuals or groups to introduce into its unique system the pernicious influence of dissension, discord and wrangling. These are the
17. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. IV, p. 18.
18. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section xliii.
words of Bahá'u'lláh in a Tablet addressed to Jamál-i-Burújirdí,* a proud and arrogant believer:
Nothing whatever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.19Those who have embraced the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, while associating with the followers of other religions in a spirit of love and friendship, will not take part in or lend support to any activity which tends to run counter to this basic principle of their Faith. A prime example is their non-participation by word or deed in political affairs. It may be true to say that no human institutions today are as corrupt as political ones. They are agencies through which man's worst characteristics find expression. For the motivating principle which governs politics today is self-interest; the tools it employs are, in most cases, intrigue, compromise and deceit; and the fruits it yields are mainly discord, strife and ruin. How could the followers of Bahá'u'lláh work within this framework? How could they take part in politics and remain loyal to those lofty principles enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh? The principles of universality and the oneness of the human race, of truthfulness and honesty, of uprightness and integrity, of love and fellowship are completely opposite to the way in which politics are conducted today.
Recognizing the destructive nature of the present-day order in human society, the bankruptcy of its political, religious and social institutions and their inability to bring unity to the human race, the Bahá'ís are engaged in erecting on a global scale the framework of a new world order based on the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.†
* See pp. 118-19.
† For a comprehensive study of this subject, see the writings of Shoghi Effendi, especially The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh and The Promised Day is Come.
19. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section v.
Describing the Bahá'í world community and its role in creating a new order for mankind, Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, writes:
Conscious of their high calling, confident in the society-building power which their Faith possesses, they press forward, undeterred and undismayed, in their efforts to fashion and perfect the necessary instruments wherein the embryonic World Order of Bahá'u'lláh can mature and develop. It is this building process, slow and unobtrusive, to which the life of the world-wide Bahá'í Community is wholly consecrated, that constitutes the one hope of a stricken society. For this process is actuated by the generating influence of God's changeless Purpose, and is evolving within the framework of the Administrative Order of His Faith.
equivocation, every particularistic interest, be it personal, regional, or national, to the paramount interests of humanity, firmly convinced that in a world of inter-dependent peoples and nations the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole, and that no abiding benefit can be conferred upon the component parts if the general interests of the entity itself are ignored or neglected...
* Written in 1936. In April 1977 there were Bahá'í institutions in at least 330 countries, islands and dependencies. (A.T.)
whom it is striving to incorporate into its divinely-appointed system? How can it avoid the constant friction, the misunderstandings and controversies which formal affiliation, as distinct from association, must inevitably engender?20The Command to Teach
Throughout the Súriy-i-Asháb, Bahá'u'lláh urges Muníb to be steadfast, to put his trust in God and to be afraid of no one, even should all men draw their swords against him and assail him from every side. With the potency of His sublime words Bahá'u'lláh instils in him a spirit of might and power, directs him to teach His Cause fearlessly, but with wisdom and prudence, among the Bábís, commands him to tear away the veils which have prevented them from recognizing Him with such vigour that every other veil may be rent asunder from the faces of all created things, and assures him that God has bestowed divine protection upon him.
In many instances Bahá'u'lláh reminds Muníb to teach His Faith only to those who are sincere and to avoid the companionship of anyone who shows enmity towards Him. He counsels Muníb to share the Súriy-i-Asháb only with those Bábís whose faces are radiant with the love of God and not to reveal it to others.
From the early days of the Faith, Bahá'u'lláh has enjoined upon His followers to teach His Cause. His commandment, which is directed to every believer, is the basis of all Bahá'í activity and constitutes the bedrock upon which rests the spiritual well-being of the individual. Wishing to stress the paramount importance of teaching His Cause, Bahá'u'lláh, in a Tablet21 addressed to Jamál-i-Burújirdí, states that should he be residing in the West and learn that a person in the East is anxious to attain the knowledge of God and the recognition of His Manifestation, then it is incumbent upon him, if he has the means, to travel to distant lands in order to bestow the water of life upon that enquirer. In another Tablet Bahá'u'lláh writes:
20. Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 195-9 passim.
21. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. IV, p. 47.
Teach ye the Cause of God, O people of Bahá, for God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of proclaiming His Message, and regardeth it as the most meritorious of all deeds. Such a deed is acceptable only when he that teacheth the Cause is already a firm believer in God, the Supreme Protector, the Gracious, the Almighty. He hath, moreover, ordained that His Cause be taught through the power of men's utterance, and not through resort to violence. Thus hath His ordinance been sent down from the Kingdom of Him Who is the Most Exalted, the All-Wise. Beware lest ye contend with any one, nay, strive to make him aware of the truth with kindly manner and most convincing exhortation. If your hearer respond, he will have responded to his own behoof, and if not, turn ye away from him, and set your faces towards God's sacred Court, the seat of resplendent holiness.22In the early days in Persia, the cradle of the Faith, teaching work went ahead with tremendous devotion and sacrifice. The believers worked together as a team. There were those who made contact with people, won their confidence, and after careful assessment of their motives and background introduced the Faith to them and brought them along to the gatherings of the friends. There were others who were knowledgeable and spoke at meetings, yet others who were excellent hosts and provided the right atmosphere for discussing the challenging claims of the Cause of God. All these friends worked together hand in hand. With absolute unity and devotion the believers consecrated their lives to teaching the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh until great numbers entered the Faith and many of them laid down their lives in His path.
It is true to say that during the seventy-seven years of the Heroic Age of the Faith (which included the ministries of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá) the pure in heart among the Persian people were brought under the shadow of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. In this period the gem-like essence of that nation was attracted into the community of the Most Great Name.
22. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section cxxviii.
In one of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh affirms:
By the righteousness of the one true God! If one speck of a jewel be lost and buried beneath a mountain of stones, and lie hidden beyond the seven seas, the Hand of Omnipotence would assuredly reveal it in this Day, pure and cleansed from dross.23Indeed, the hand of divine power had within a short period raised up many heroes among the people of Persia, and made them the recipients of His grace and bounty.
Bahá'u'lláh has counselled His followers that the first step for a teacher is to teach his own self. In one of His Tablets He states:
Whoso ariseth among you to teach the Cause of His Lord, let him, before all else, teach his own self, that his speech may attract the hearts of them that hear him. Unless he teacheth his own self, the words of his mouth will not influence the heart of the seeker. Take heed, O people, lest ye be of them that give good counsel to others but forget to follow it themselves. The words of such as these, and beyond the words the realities of all things, and beyond these realities the angels that are nigh unto God, bring against them the accusation of falsehood.In His second Tablet to Napoleon III, Bahá'u'lláh addresses His followers and urges them in these words to teach the Cause:
God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of teaching His Cause. Whoever ariseth to discharge this duty, must
23. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 67.
24. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section cxxviii.
needs, ere he proclaimeth His Message, adorn himself with the ornament of an upright and praiseworthy character, so that his words may attract the hearts of such as are receptive to his call. Without it, he can never hope to influence his hearers.25An important point which needs clarification is that the basic purpose of teaching is not merely to increase the membership of the Bahá'í community, although this happens as a result. The prime motive is that the individual may know Bahá'u'lláh and draw near to Him. In the whole creation there is nothing more important than the attraction of the soul to its God. In the physical world we observe the attraction which exists between the earth and every object which comes within its orbit. The earth tends to draw everything to itself and the final goal of every object is to reach and rest upon it. The same law of attraction binds the Creator to His creation. The soul is attracted to the worlds of God and if barriers which intervene between the two are lifted, the individual will reach his ultimate destiny. Teaching the Cause of God is the very act of removing these barriers. When the soul recognizes Bahá'u'lláh, it will reach its abode and there is nothing more meritorious in the sight of God than that His servants should be wholly drawn to Him.
The aim of the Bahá'í teacher is that the Message of God may be glorified and that the individual may be enabled to embrace His Cause, celebrate His praise, and draw nearer to Him. The act of teaching, more than anything else, evokes the good-pleasure of God. In one of His Tablets26 Bahá'u'lláh states that there are two things pleasing to God: the tears shed in fear of Him and the blood of the martyr spilt in His path. But since Bahá'u'lláh has advised His followers not to volunteer to give their lives, He has replaced it with teaching His Cause.
In several Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has described the fear of God as the cause of nearness to Him. This statement may be difficult for some to appreciate. For why should a loving God be
25. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section clviii.
26. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. IV, pp. 123-4.
feared? Fear is engendered in man when he feels inadequate to deal with a situation, and confidence is generated when he finds himself completely in control. For example, a man who has been given a responsibility but has failed to fulfil his obligations will be filled with fear when he meets his superiors, because he knows that they will deal with him with justice. Man, in this life, fails to carry out the commandments of God. He commits sins and violates the laws of God. In such a case how can he feel at ease when he knows that one day he will be called on to account for his deeds? If man does not fear God, it is a sign either that he is without shortcomings or that he has no faith in the next life when he will have to answer for his wrong-doings. In The Hidden Words Bahá'u'lláh counsels His servants in these words:
O Son of Being!The closer one draws to God, the more he becomes conscious of his wrong-doings and the more he will fear God. The following passages, gleaned from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, clearly indicate that the fear of God is the means by which man may acquire spiritual qualities and grow stronger in faith.
The fear of God hath ever been a sure defence and a safe stronghold for all the peoples of the world. It is the chief cause of the protection of mankind, and the supreme instrument for its preservation. Indeed, there existeth in man a faculty which deterreth him from, and guardeth him against, whatever is unworthy and unseemly, and which is known as his sense of shame. This, however, is confined to but a few; all have not possessed, and do not possess, it. It is incumbent upon the kings and the spiritual leaders of the world to lay fast hold on religion, inasmuch as through it the fear of God is instilled in all else but Him.28
27. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, no. 31, Arabic.
28. Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 27.
["The fear of God..."] Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 63; The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 4 p. 28
Admonish men to fear God. By God! This fear is the chief commander of the army of Thy Lord. Its hosts are a praiseworthy character and goodly deeds. Through it have the cities of men's hearts been opened throughout the ages and centuries, and the standards of ascendancy and triumph raised above all other standards.29In the Words of Wisdom, He states:
The essence of wisdom is the fear of God, the dread of His scourge and the apprehension of His justice and decree.30As already mentioned the other deed which is most accept able in the sight of God is to lay down one's life in His path and die as a martyr.
One of the great mysteries of creation is the act of sacrifice. We will not be able to appreciate it fully in this world. Yet we can readily observe in nature that any created thing, if it is to be elevated to a higher kingdom, must give up its own existence and become part of a new and more exalted form of life. Man's greatest attainment on this earth is to serve the Cause of God. The eagerness and devotion with which he arises to serve the Cause invokes the good-pleasure of God, especially if the believer is ready to sacrifice his interests, time, possessions, and all that is dear to him, in order to render this service to His Lord. However, to be prepared to give one's life for the promotion of the Cause of God is man's ultimate sacrifice in this world and is the most meritorious in the sight of God. In The Hidden Words Bahá'u'lláh reveals:
O Son of Man!
29. Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 136.
30. Bahá'u'lláh, The Bahá'í Revelation, p. 138.
["The essence of wisdom is..."] Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 155
O Son of Man!By replacing this greatest act of devotion with teaching the Cause, Bahá'u'lláh has discouraged his followers from seeking martyrdom. Instead He has commanded them to devote their entire lives to teaching His Cause to the whole human race.
In one of His Tablets32 Bahá'u'lláh even explicitly states that in this dispensation it is preferable to teach with wisdom than to give one's life. Throughout His ministry Bahá'u'lláh exhorted His followers to teach the Cause of God with great wisdom. He did not approve of teaching the public indiscriminately. He repeatedly advised the believers in Persia, especially after the martyrdom of Badí',* that for their own safety and the protection of the Cause they should exercise more care and prudence in their approach to people and not excite or antagonize them. In one of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh counsels His followers:
In this Day, We can neither approve the conduct of the fearful that seeketh to dissemble his faith, nor sanction the behaviour of the avowed believer that clamorously asserteth his allegiance to this Cause. Both should observe the dictates of wisdom, and strive diligently to serve the best interests of the Faith.33The great majority of Bahá'í teachers in Persia followed this advice. They taught the Faith to those who were earnest seekers, not to fanatics and trouble-makers. A few, who were unable to withhold themselves from mentioning the Faith in public, often brought untold suffering and even martyrdom upon themselves and the rest of the community. A notable example is Mullá Muhammad-Ridá of Muhammad-Ábád,† who
* An illustrious youthful martyr of the Faith, whose exemplary sacrifice will be described in some detail in the next volume.
† For an account of his life, see vol. 1, pp. 84-91.
31. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, nos. 46 and 47, Arabic.
32. Bahá'u'lláh, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. I, p. 69.
33. Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section CLXIV.
spoke in public openly and with unbounded enthusiasm about the Faith. By so doing, however, he antagonized the fanatical populace who as a result created great trouble for the friends and inflicted many persecutions upon them. Bahá'u'lláh, in one of His Tablets,34 affirms that Mullá Muhammad-Ridá had acted unwisely, but forgives him through His loving-kindness and mercy.
As we dwell on this important subject, let us remember that the commandment of Bahá'u'lláh to be wise in teaching and proclaiming His Cause was not intended only for the early believers who lived in the Heroic Age of the Faith. It is equally applicable to the present day and will remain as one of the essential prerequisites for bringing victory to the Cause of God throughout this Dispensation. Indeed, wisdom is one of the greatest gifts of God to man, and without it the individual will bring harm to himself and to the Cause.
But wisdom in teaching must not lead to apathy, compromise, or inactivity. The history of the Faith demonstrates that the early believers in Persia taught the Faith with zeal and enthusiasm, with courage and determination. They devoted their entire lives to seeking receptive souls and confirming them in the Faith. No earthly agency, no preoccupation ever deflected them from this exalted purpose. With that single-mindedness characteristic of the Heroic Age they spent hours of the day and night praying and devising plans to meet those whom they could attract to the Cause.
In most towns and villages in Persia the believers held meetings to which seekers of truth were admitted. However, these meetings were often held in the dead of night in someone's home. For the safety of the friends and the protection of the Faith the believers had to be very careful not to attract anyone's attention when entering or leaving a house. For the same reasons no enquirer would be admitted until they were assured of his sincerity. In spite of all this vigilance there were occasions when enemies of the Faith were able to deceive the believers and find their way to these meetings in the guise of
34. Quoted by Fádil-i-Mázindarání in Asráru'l-Áthár, vol. IV, p. 19.
seekers of truth. Such events always led to great trouble, for once the friends were identified, their lives could be in danger.
On the other hand, there were many occasions in which the believers, for various reasons, had to teach or defend their Faith in public. Depending on the circumstances, they often suffered great persecutions as a result.
The following account gleaned and translated from the memoirs of Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí helps to illustrate the way in which the early believers grasped every opportunity to teach the Cause, and when the situation demanded it, demonstrated the validity of their faith in public fearlessly and with great eagerness. They faced the challenge with courage and resourcefulness even though they knew that their actions might lead to suffering and persecution.
Soon after his return from 'Akká where he attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, Hájí Muhammad-Táhir, as bidden, began his teaching work with unbounded enthusiasm and devotion in the district of Yazd. Bahá'u'lláh had personally taught him how to teach His Faith. Many people with whom he talked joined the ranks of the believers, but he never attributed this success to himself. He was absolutely convinced that the hand of Bahá'u'lláh was always at work. One of those with whom he came in contact was Mullá Muhammad-i-Manshádí, a distinguished mujtahid* and one of the leading figures among the divines of the district of Yazd. Being sincere and pure at heart, this great man recognized the truth of the Cause of God and later laid down his life in the path of Bahá'u'lláh. This is the story:
In the winter, I paid a visit to Manshád† and stayed in the house of Rada'r-Rúh.‡ One day his brother, Áqá Mullá
* Doctor of Islámic law who has the authority to exercise independent initiative in enforcing the laws of Islám.
† A large village about forty miles from Yazd, well known for its Bahá'ís and Bahá'í martyrs. (A.T.)
Bábá'í, who was later martyred, talked about a certain Muslim divine [Mullá Muhammad-i-Manshádí], saying that he was a good person. He asked my advice as to whether he should invite him, so that I could speak to him about the Faith. I thought there was no harm provided he did not create trouble. Mullá Bábá'í assured me that this man was not a trouble-maker...so I agreed that he should be invited.
* Two holy cities of Shí'ah Islám where clergymen receive the rank of mujtahid. (A.T.)
who always realized this, would intervene and support my argument...The news of Mullá Muhammad's conversion to the Faith created a sensation in Manshád. Some were dismayed, some bewildered, and many were angered. The chiefs of the village who were Mullá Muhammad's admirers and friends asked him to help them overcome their perplexity and confusion. In response to their request, he arranged a meeting to be held in the house of one of the chiefs and asked Hájí Muhammad-Táhir to go with him and speak to them about the Faith.
In his memoirs Hájí Muhammad-Táhir writes:
...Jináb-i-Mullá Muhammad came and told me what had happened. He said that he had promised them [the chiefs of
* The leading divine of the Muslim community who leads prayers in the mosque.
35. Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, unpublished memoirs.
the village] that tomorrow afternoon he and I would go to the home of Hájí Qurbán-'Alí...to speak about the Faith. I agreed to go, although I knew that such an action was unwise. But since he had promised to attend, I felt that I had to go, otherwise he might become somewhat shaken in his faith. In the meantime Mullá 'Alí-Akbar had become informed of this arrangement and had advised the chiefs that it was not wise for them to take part in discussions on their own. He told them that he intended to attend...and bring with him a number of clergymen.Knowing that the spokesman for the divines was an argumentative person who distorted the truth and had no regard for logic or fairness, Hájí Muhammad-Táhir approached the subject in a manner that completely discomfited his opponent and confounded him throughout. He spoke for over four hours during which he recounted the history of past religions and demonstrated the truth of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh through rational proofs as well as the Qur'án and traditions of Islám. Concerning that meeting Hájí Muhammad-Táhir writes:
That day God vouchsafed such confirmation and ascendancy that the Cause of God was proclaimed and its proof established for all. On that day Jináb-i-Mullá Muhammad was transformed into a ball of fire. He was so enraptured that it is impossible for me to describe it...
* Learned divines.
36. Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, unpublished memoirs.
of divines...prepared a document, put their seals to it and sent it to Shaykh Muhammad-Hasan-i-Sabzivárí* in Yazd. In this document they testified that Hájí Muhammad-Táhir had come to Manshád and converted Mullá Muhammad who had openly proclaimed...the truth of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh from the pulpit and had now withdrawn altogether from the mosque. They also stated that Hájí Muhammad-Táhir had been openly teaching the Bahá'í Faith in a public meeting at the home of Hájí Qurbán-'Alí. They expressed the view that the situation in Manshád was out of hand and asked for instructions.During the time that he stayed in this house an event of great consequence took place. Concerning this he writes:
One day Ustád 'Alí-'Askar said to me 'There is a Zoroastrian youth by the name of Bahrám [later known as Mullá Bahrám] who comes to the door periodically to sell beetroot to us. He is a very nice young man. If it meets with your approval, I will bring him in to talk with you next time he calls here.' I said, 'Very well'...A few days later Jináb-i-
* The leading mujtahid of Yazd who was one of the greatest enemies of the Faith. He passed the death sentence on many believers who were martyred in that area. (A.T.)
† A village almost half-way between Yazd and Manshád. (A.T.)
‡ It was Bahá'u'lláh's instruction that Hájí Muhammad-Táhir should not allow himself to fall into the hands of the enemy, so that be might live to teach the Faith. (A.T.)
37. Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, unpublished memoirs.
Mullá Bahrám came...and Ustád 'Alí-'Askar brought him to me.Soon after his conversion to the Faith, Mullá Bahrám rose up with heroism and devotion to teach his fellow Zoroastrians. It was through his dedicated efforts that a great many from among his co-religionists joined the Faith. Later, 'Abdu'l-Bahá conferred upon him the title of Akhtar-i-Khávarí (Star of the East).
After three months of seclusion in the home of Ustád-'Alí-'Askar, Hájí Muhammad-Táhir left for the village of Mihríz. But somehow the enemies discovered his whereabouts and made another attempt to arrest him and have him executed. But the hand of Bahá'u'lláh protected him, and he left just in time. Eventually he had to leave the Province of Yazd until the situation had changed.
* There is a large Zoroastrian community in Yazd. In those days, apart from some trade and business links, they had almost no cultural or religious relationship with the Muslim community. Today a great number of Bahá'ís in Persia come from Zoroastrian background. The first Zoroastrian to believe in Bahá'u'lláh was Kay-Khusraw-i-Khudádád, although Suhráb-i-Púr-Kávús in Káshán recognized the truth of the Bábí Faith during the ministry of the Báb.
† It should be noted that Mullá Bahrám had previously met other Bahá'ís who had informed him about the Faith. (A.T.)
35. Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, unpublished memoirs.
In the meantime, as a result of Mullá Muhammad's conversion to the Faith and the proclamation of the Faith to the clergy, the situation at Manshád reached crisis point. Having failed to capture Hájí Muhammad-Táhir, the ecclesiastical hierarchy in Yazd, in desperation, arranged for the arrest of six Bahá'ís at Manshád. These six men were taken to the city and put in prison. From there, they were sent to Isfahán to appear before Prince Mas'úd Mírzá, the Zillu's-Sultán, the Governor of the Province. They were chained together and, escorted by armed officials, were made to walk, in the heat of summer, a distance of about 250 miles.
One of these men, a certain Áqá Siyyid Muhammad-'Alíy-i-Gázur, had become ill while in prison. Yet Shaykh Muhammad-Hasan-i-Sabzivárí, the notorious mujtahid of Yazd, ordered that this sick man was to lead the chained prisoners to Isfahán and carry on his shoulder the extra length of chain and the heavy iron spike* attached to it. On hearing this, Fátimih-Bagum, the only sister of Áqá Muhammad-'Alí and a devoted Bahá'í, volunteered to accompany the prisoners on foot and carry the extra length of chain.
Although in those days women lived a sheltered life, seldom left the confines of their home and never took part in public affairs, Fátimih-Bagum, a maiden, twenty-seven years of age, was determined to walk with the prisoners. The friends tried very hard to dissuade her from going, pointing out the hazards of the journey by foot in the heat of the summer and under such difficult circumstances. But their pleas brought no result. She is reported to have told the believers: 'How can I allow them to take my brother...and five other beloved of God to Isfahán, while I stay here! I shall go with these six persons to Isfahán. If they decide to kill them, they must first take my life and then proceed to execute the rest...My life is not more precious than theirs.'
With a courage and steadfastness that amazed the officials and
* The spike would be used to fasten the chain to the ground when they were resting or sleeping at night.
onlookers, Fátimih-Bagum, walking barefoot and wearing her veil, led the party of prisoners to Isfahán, and carried the end of the chain and the spike on her shoulder all the way.
These men were sent to prison on arrival in Isfahán. Through the efforts of Fátimih-Bagum, who managed to plead their case to Prince Zillu's-Sultán, they were freed and sent back to Yazd. But the persecutions did not stop here. Some years later these valiant souls were martyred. Fátimih-Bagum herself was dragged out of her home and done to death in such humiliating circumstances as no pen can describe. The indignities to which her body was subjected after her martyrdom constitute one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the Faith.
As to Mullá Muhammad, once the great mujtahid of Manshád, whose conversion to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh had sparked off such cruelties, he renounced the leadership of the Muslim community after his recognition of the station of Bahá'u'lláh. Having no earthly possessions to support himself and his family, he found no alternative but to earn his living by working as a building labourer. He was a tower of strength to the Bahá'ís and served the Cause with great humility and self-effacement, until after some years he won the crown of martyrdom and laid down his life in the path of Bahá'u'lláh.
The same people who were once his admirers and servants, who used to bow before him as he appeared in their midst, who crowded in the mosque to hear him speak and lead them in prayer, were now intent upon taking his life, for he had embraced the Cause of God. During the Bahá'í massacre of 1903 in the city of Yazd and neighbouring villages Mullá Muhammad was martyred. The crowds dragged his body through the village and delivered it to the flames.
This chain of events, leading one to another, amply demonstrates that teaching the Cause in the early days needed great courage and wisdom. It also shows that victories won for the Faith of God have often resulted in trials and persecutions which in turn have spurred the believers on to achieve greater victories for their Lord.