Tests of Faith

The Falling Stars

In November 1866 when Bahá'u'lláh was residing in the house of Ridá Big, a spectacular meteoric shower took place. Thousands of shooting-stars lit up the sky as they blazed their way through the atmosphere. This event, which has been called the 'star-fall' of 1866, was watched by millions in the East and West and for many the experience was terrifying.*

According to the Gospels, one of the signs of the coming of Christ in the glory of the Father is the falling of stars.† Bahá'u'lláh, in one of His Tablets cited in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, refers to this:

O thou who hast set thy face towards the splendours of My Countenance! Vague fancies have encompassed the dwellers of the earth and debarred them from turning towards the Horizon of Certitude, and its brightness, and its manifestations and its lights. Vain imaginings have withheld them from Him Who is the Self-Subsisting. They speak as prompted by their own caprices, and understand not. Among them are those who have said:...'Have the stars fallen?' Say: 'Yea, when He Who is the Self-Subsisting dwelt in the Land of Mystery (Adrianople). Take heed, ye who are endued with discernment!' All the signs appeared when We drew forth the Hand of Power from the bosom of majesty and might.1
Although this fascinating display of falling-stars was a literal fulfilment of the prophecies of old, its real significance is to be

* See Appendix I.

† See Matthew 24:29.

1. Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 131-2.
found in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá where the words of the Gospels are interpreted. Bahá'u'lláh explains that by the falling of stars is meant the fall of religious leaders who, because they denied the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, are losing their influence over mankind. Addressing the Christian ecclesiastics, Bahá'u'lláh in one of His Tablets proclaims:

O concourse of bishops! Ye are the stars of the heaven of My knowledge. My mercy desireth not that ye should fall upon the earth. My justice, however, declareth: 'This is that which the Son (Jesus) hath decreed.' And whatsoever hath proceeded out of His blameless, His truth-speaking, trustworthy mouth, can never be altered.2
And again:

The stars of the heaven of knowledge have fallen, they that adduce the proofs they possess in order to demonstrate the truth of My Cause, and who make mention of God in My name. When I came unto them, in My majesty, however, they turned aside from Me. They, verily, are of the fallen.3
As far as recorded history shows, every religion has had its leaders. In past Dispensations, the clergy played a major part in conducting the affairs of religion. They became the most vital element in the fabric of human society, and exerted a powerful influence in the life of the community. They gained a great deal of authority which never waned until the coming of Bahá'u'lláh, when by one stroke of His exalted Pen, he stripped them of a power they had enjoyed since the beginning of time. He wrote in one of His Tablets:

From two ranks amongst men power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics.4
The creative influence of the words of Bahá'u'lláh in this and similar pronouncements has set in motion the process of the

2. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 105.

3. ibid.

4. ibid., p. 72.

[The stars of the heaven of knowledge...] Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 48
disintegration of religious institutions and the progressive downfall of their leaders, who are increasingly becoming aware of their impotence to exercise a meaningful influence upon their communities.*

In this Dispensation Bahá'u'lláh has abolished priesthood. He has entrusted the administration of His Faith to the institutions designated by Him as the 'Houses of Justice.' †


The Súriy-i-'Ibád (Súrih of the Servants) was revealed in Arabic in Adrianople in honour of Siyyid Mihdíy-i-Dahají. Siyyid Mihdí, to whom reference was made in a previous chapter, ‡ was entitled by Bahá'u'lláh Ismu'lláhu'l-Mihdí (The Name of God, He Who is Guided). He was one of the famous teachers of the Cause during Bahá'u'lláh's ministry, but like Jamal-i-Burújirdí, who was also entitled 'Ismu'lláh', was a proud and ambitious man who in the end broke the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh and rebelled against 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Siyyid Mihdí was a native of Dahaj in the province of Yazd. He attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád, Adrianople and 'Akká and received His unfailing bounties. Like Jamál, he travelled widely throughout Persia and was much honoured by the believers. Yet people who were endowed with discernment found him to be insincere, egotistical and deeply attached to the things of this world. Notable among those who have written their impressions of him is Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, who also wrote about Jamál-i-Burújirdí. A perusal of his narratives makes it clear that these two men had at least one thing in common, namely an insatiable lust for leadership. Siyyid Mihdí


* For a fuller treatment of this subject see The Promised Day is Come.

† Apart from the Universal House of Justice, the supreme body of the Faith, Bahá'u'lláh has ordained the establishment of local Houses of Justice in every town or village. These bodies are functioning today in their embryonic form--the Local Spiritual Assemblies.

‡ See pp. 118-19.



A devoted follower of Bahá'u'lláh, who visited Him in
Adrianople; he suffered persecution for his faith.
A photograph taken in prison



A notable believer of Qazvín.
The recipient of the Lawh-i-Khalíl

always entered Bahá'í gatherings with an air of superiority. He loved to see a retinue of the faithful walk behind him, and at nights he was preceded by a number of believers who carried lanterns for him.* This made a spectacular scene in those days; for normally one servant or friend with a lantern accompanied a person at night. But in his case some believers vied with each other to perform this service, and Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí recalls an evening when no less than fourteen men, with lanterns in hand, escorted him to a meeting!

Men such as these always fall. The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh does not harbour people who are egotistical and seek to glorify themselves. Its hallmark is servitude, and the standard it demands is purity of motive and sincerity. It is not therefore surprising to find that Siyyid Mihdí and Jamál-i-Burújirdí were toppled to the ground when the winds of tests began to blow. They both broke the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, and in the hope of becoming the undisputed leaders of the Faith in Persia, joined hands with Mírzá Muhammad-'Alí† and rebelled against the appointed Centre of the Cause of God.‡ When this became known in Persia, the believers left them to their own devices, and soon their glory was turned into abasement. At first they made a great deal of clamour and noise within the community. They agitated the minds of many, but the power of the Covenant swept them into the abyss of ignominy and cleansed the Faith from their pollution.

During His ministry, Bahá'u'lláh concealed the faults and wrongdoings of Siyyid Mihdí. In His Tablets He showered His loving-kindness upon him and exhorted him to sincerity, purity and detachment. There is scarcely a Tablet revealed in his honour in which these points are not emphasized. When Bahá'u'lláh left Baghdád for Constantinople, He bade


* As there was no public lighting in those days, people carried lanterns at night. Important men had their servants carry a lantern in front of them.

† See vol. 1 and p. 260 above.

‡ 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

Siyyid Mihdí move into His house* and become its caretaker.

While residing in this house a small incident happened which reveals the weakness of his faith and demonstrates his attachment to material things. Some thieves broke into the house and stole some of his personal belongings. The loss of these few small items caused Siyyid Mihdí so much grief that he complained to Bahá'u'lláh. In reply, a Tablet was revealed in which Bahá'u'lláh counsels him to be detached from the things of this world and reminds him that his grievances are as utter nothingness when compared to the sufferings that Bahá'u'lláh Himself had endured in the path of God.

The Súriy-i-'Ibád was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in the early days of His sojourn in Adrianople while Siyyid Mihdí was still caretaker of the Most Great House in Baghdád. In it He urges him to live a pious life, to cleanse his heart from the defilement of the world, and to become detached from his own self and all created things. Bahá'u'lláh extols His own Essence, and states that for many years He had revealed the Words of God in great profusion while hiding His glory behind many veils of concealment. When the appointed hour had struck, however, He unveiled His exalted station and shed n infinitesimal measure of the light of His countenance upon all created things. As a result of this outpouring, the Concourse on high† and the chosen ones of God were awestruck and dumbfounded.

A considerable part of this Tablet recounts the events of the journey from Baghdád to Adrianople. It also serves as a channel of communication between Bahá'u'lláh and the believers in 'Iráq, for in it He addresses the believers in general and a few in particular. He exhorts them to rectitude of conduct, steadfastness in His love and unity among themselves.

Although Siyyid Mihdí's Bahá'í career ended in shame and he perished spiritually, he had a nephew, Hájí Siyyid 'Alí-


* This house in Baghdád is known as the 'Most Great House'. See vol 1, pp. 211-12.

† The gathering of holy souls in the Kingdom of God.

Akbar-i-Dahají, an embodiment of faith and servitude and very much loved by Bahá'u'lláh. Concerning this believer, Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí writes in his unpublished 'History of the Faith in the Province of Yazd':

The late Hájí Siyyid 'Alí-Akbar-i-Dahají was one of the early believers. Seldom has there been a soul so distinguished and pious as he. He was a nephew of Siyyid Mihdí, the Ismu'lláh...Physically he was very handsome and had a sweet melodious voice. One might say that whenever he chanted the Words of God, even the Concourse on high and the Denizens of the Kingdom of Abhá were exhilarated by his voice...I have never heard anyone chant so beautifully as he did. He attained the presence of the Blessed Beauty several times and became the recipient of Bahá'u'lláh's infinite favours and bounties. His relationship with Him was truly that of a lover and the Beloved. There are many Tablets revealed in his honour. Notable among them is the Tablet of Ihtiráq.*...Hájí Siyyid 'Alí-Akbar passed away in Tihrán on his way back from the Holy Land after having attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh for the last time. After his death, Bahá'u'lláh indicated that He was so attached to Hájí Siyyid 'Alí-Akbar that He wished the name of this believer mentioned in His presence. He thereafter instructed that henceforth his uncle Siyyid Mihdí, the Ismu'lláh, be called Siyyid 'Alí-Akbar.5
Another person who may be regarded in the same light as Siyyid Mihdí and Jamál-i-Burújirdí is Muhammad-Javád-i-Qazvíní; although the third did not have the learning of the first two. Bahá'u'lláh conferred upon him the title Ismu'lláhu'l-Javád (The Name of God, the All-Bountiful). He also became a Covenant-breaker and one who inflicted great sufferings upon the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Javád, as a youth, attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád. In 1867 he went to

*This Tablet is also known by its opening verse as Qad-Ihtaraqa'l-Mukhlisún. It has become known among the English-speaking believers as the Fire Tablet. We shall refer to it in the next volume.

5. Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, unpublished 'History of the Faith in the Province of Yazd'.
Adrianople in the company of Nabíl-i-A'zam and was among those who were permitted to accompany Bahá'u'lláh to 'Akká.

During the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh, Javád enjoyed nearness to Him and in spite of his many shortcomings, Bahá'u'lláh conferred His favours upon him and concealed his faults. But after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Javád, driven by his ambitions and aspirations, joined hands with Mírzá Muhammad-'Alí the arch-breaker of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, caused much anguish and pain to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and severely attacked Him in his venomous writings which contained many inaccuracies, falsehoods and calumnies. Thus ended in tragedy the career of one whom Bahá'u'lláh had exalted through His loving-kindness. It did not take very long before his plans and aspirations were frustrated and, like Jamál and Siyyid Mihdí, he perished ingloriously.

The Test of Gold

Having referred to the downfall of Javád-i-Qazvíní, it is interesting to recount the story of his eldest brother, Hájí Muhammad-Báqir-i-Qazvíní who had an unusual Bahá'í career; he was one who fell from grace, but was saved towards the end of his life. Hájí Muhammad-Báqir attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád. While there he requested Bahá'u'lláh to bestow wealth upon him. Bahá'u'lláh acceded to his plea and assured him that God would grant his wish. Soon afterwards he became very rich, but as a result grew heedless of the Cause of God.

In the course of Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí's account of what appears to be his first audience with Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople, we find the following story of Hájí Muhammad-Báqir. Having explained that he cannot express in words the excitement, awe and wonder of what he felt in his heart whenever he attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí writes:


Because it was the early days of the rise of the Day-Star of the World,* Bahá'u'lláh asked me to give Him an account of the state of the believers in Tihrán, Qazvín, Zanján and Tabríz, the towns I had passed through. He enquired of their faith, and their love for the Cause. I did not reply.† After we [Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí and his two companions] were dismissed from His presence, we were taken to a place where it was arranged for us to stay. There, Bahá'u'lláh sent someone to whom I could recount the conditions of the believers. I reported all I knew about each person, including the late Hájí Muhammad-Báqir who was at that time a well-known merchant, foremost among the believers in faith, certitude and enthusiasm, and was serving the Cause with devotion and self-sacrifice.

The messenger left and after some minutes returned with an exalted Tablet which had been revealed in honour of the Hájí. He stated [on behalf of Bahá'u'lláh]: 'This man attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdád. There He wrote a letter to Him and begged for wealth and prosperity. In answer, this exalted and wonderful Tablet was revealed for him. In it Bahá'u'lláh stated that his request would be granted and that the doors of prosperity and wealth would be opened for him from every direction. He warned him, however, to be on his guard and not to allow riches to become a barrier and make him heedless.

Now you are here to attain the presence of Bahá'u'lláh and in the future you will witness that this man [Hájí Muhammad-Báqir] will be overtaken with fear to such an extent that he will renounce God and His Cause. Not long after, he will make substantial losses, following which he will write a letter to Bahá'u'lláh and repent. God will then turn his losses into profit and he will become again highly successful in his business and will emerge as the foremost merchant in Con-


* Bahá'u'lláh. (A.T.)

† It was not unusual for the believers who were in the presence of Bahá'u'lláh not to reply to His questions. In the first place, they were so carried away that they could not utter a word. Secondly, to speak was regarded by many as being contrary to the spirit of utter self-effacement in His presence.

stantinople and Tabríz. However, this time he will wax prouder than before, more heedless and deprived...This time he will lose all his possessions, will be unable to continue trading and will become helpless in arranging his affairs. It is then that he will repent and return, and will be content to live as a poor man. He will spend the days of his life in the service of the Cause of God. His end will be blessed and he will receive great confirmations from God.' He then said to me: 'Remember all these things, for they will come to pass, and you shall witness them.'

We were in Adrianople when news came that Javád, the younger brother of the Hájí, had been arrested and cast into prison. Hájí Muhammad-Báqir had paid one thousand túmáns* for the release of his brother and had left Tabríz for Constantinople in great haste. Upon arrival he had gone to visit the late Mushíru'd-Dawlih, the Persian Ambassador, and there in his presence had recanted his Faith. Bahá'u'lláh affirmed that this was the beginning of his tests and instructed that believers passing through Constantinople should not associate with him.

Later, I left Adrianople for Constantinople where I stayed for fourteen months. There I heard that the Hájí had bought enormous quantities of cotton and because the prices had suddenly fallen drastically, not only had he lost all his possessions, but he was also unable to pay his creditors...When this happened he wrote a letter supplicating Bahá'u'lláh and repenting. A holy and blessed Tablet was revealed in his honour. In it Bahá'u'lláh gave him the glad-tidings that he would soon make enormous profits. When I went to Egypt, I heard that the price of cotton had risen considerably and the Hájí's wealth as a result increased tenfold.6

This time Hájí Muhammad-Báqir became very rich and influential. He emerged foremost among the merchants of Constantinople and acquired great fame. However, his wealth again became a barrier between him and God. Again he forsook the Cause, and completely cut off his relationship with Bahá'u'lláh. After some years Bahá'u'lláh asked Hájí Abu'l-Hasan-i-

* A very large sum of money in those days. (A.T.)

6. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, p. 74 ff.
Amín* to establish contact with him and find out how he was. Hájí Amín went to see him in Constantinople. He found him to be utterly heedless and forgetful of Bahá'u'lláh and the Cause. The world and its attractions had so possessed him that at one point in the interview, Hájí Muhammad-Báqir pointed to a coffer in his office and said, 'My god is in this box!'

Hájí Amín has stated that when he reported this to Bahá'u'lláh, He became very sad. As He was pacing up and down, He stopped, held out His hand, palm open, and said 'With this hand We conferred upon him riches.' Then with a sudden movement, He withdrew, closed His hand, and said, 'Now with the same hand We take it back from him.'

Soon Hájí Muhammad-Báqir lost all his possessions. He again became repentant and wrote to Bahá'u'lláh. This time a Tablet was revealed for him in which Bahá'u'lláh clearly stated that God took away his wealth so that he might return to Him and become steadfast in His love. He directed Hájí Muhammad-Báqir to leave Constantinople and occupy himself with transcribing the holy Writings.

After this incident, Hájí Muhammad-Báqir lived the remainder of his life in the utmost poverty. He grew strong in his faith and devoted his time to the service of the Cause. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, who met him after this event, writes:

...I met him [Hájí Muhammad-Báqir] in Tabríz. He said 'After the revelation of the Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh, it was as if the nails in the wall, the curtains in the room, and everything else had ears to hear and were carrying out the command of Bahá'u'lláh. I lost everything that I had earned. The house I live in now is owned by my wife and the clothes I wear are tailored by my children.' 7
Hájí Muhammad-Báqir was not the only one who had asked Bahá'u'lláh to bestow upon him riches through the power of God. There were others, some of whom became utterly heedless of the Cause after their success in life. It is man's nature to

* The Trustee of Bahá'u'lláh. For further information see vol. III.

7. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, pp. 75-6.
become attracted to material things. However, if he allows worldly riches to possess him and rule over his soul, then he will be deprived of the bounties of God, and will perish spiritually. Wealth and attachment to material things are some of the greatest tests for the soul of man. Bahá'u'lláh states in The Hidden Words:
O Son of Being!
Busy not thyself with this world, for with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants.8
As we have previously stated,* there is nothing in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh to condemn wealth as long as it does not become a barrier between man and God. On the contrary He glorifies the station of a rich person whose riches have not prevented him from recognizing His Cause and serving Him with devotion. The view that one must be poor in order to become godly and spiritual is not necessarily correct. The criterion for nearness to God is detachment, and although it is more difficult for the rich to attain to this lofty station, a poor person often has to fight many battles within himself before he becomes detached from this world. 'Abdu'l-Bahá in one of His Tablets9 explains that it is a basic requirement for the order of creation to have both rich and poor in human society.† If all were equal the balance in this world would be upset, and human progress would halt. Nature also confirms 'Abdu'l-Bahá's explanation and demonstrates the falsity and impracticability of those ideologies which seek to establish equality in human society. That all human beings have equal rights and privileges is one of the basic teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. But it is also made clear that people are not equal in their capacity, intelligence and accomplish-

* See vol. 1, pp. 75-7.

† It is important to note that while the Bahá'í teachings maintain that human society should consist of many levels, they advocate the abolition of extreme poverty and wealth.

8. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, no. 55, Arabic.

9. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. II, p. 86.

ments. Therefore society must comprise within itself men of all ranks and position who are related to each other in their various functions. 'Abdu'l-Bahá states, in the fore-mentioned Tablet, that poverty is meritorious in the sight of God if it comes about in His path. He gives the example of those who were persecuted and lost all their possessions because they followed the Cause of God. There are many Tablets in which Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá have exhorted the believers to be patient and content in poverty and generous in prosperity. In The Hidden Words Bahá'u'lláh reveals:
O Son of My Handmaid!
Be not troubled in poverty nor confident in riches, for poverty is followed by riches, and riches are followed by poverty. Yet to be poor in all save God is a wondrous gift, belittle not the value thereof, for in the end it will make thee rich in God, and thus thou shalt know the meaning of the utterance, 'In truth ye are the poor,' and the holy words, 'God is the all-possessing,' shall even as the true morn break forth gloriously resplendent upon the horizon of the lover's heart, and abide secure on the throne of wealth.10
In the course of one of His talks to His companions11 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that a poor man who is patient and forbearing is better than a rich man who is thankful. However, a poor man who is thankful is more praiseworthy than the one who is patient, while more meritorious than all is the rich man who expends his wealth for others. It is clear from the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh that man must earn his living in this life by engaging in some form of work, trade or profession. In The Hidden Words Bahá'u'lláh says:
O My Servants
Ye are the trees of My garden; ye must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits, that ye yourselves and others may profit therefrom. Thus it is incumbent on every one to engage in

10. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, no. 51, Persian.

11. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted by Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání, Kitáb-i-Badáyi'u'l-Áthár, vol. I, p. 185.

crafts and professions, for therein lies the secret of wealth, O men of understanding! For results depend upon means, and the grace of God shall be all-sufficient unto you. Trees that yield no fruit have been and will ever be for the fire.

O My Servant!
The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God, the Lord of all worlds.12

However, one of the most important attributes for one who earns his living is to be content and resigned to whatever God has ordained for him. 'The source of all good,' Bahá'u'lláh states, 'is trust in God, submission unto His command, and contentment in His holy will and pleasure.' 13

12. Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words, nos. 80 and 82, Persian.

13. Bahá'u'lláh, 'Words of Wisdom', The Bahá'í Revelation, p. 138.

["The source of all good..."] Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 155