Two Kings are Summoned
The Súriy-i-Mulúk was not the only Tablet addressed to the kings. Bahá'u'lláh also revealed a number of Tablets to certain kings, rulers and religious leaders individually. Two of them were revealed in Adrianople: the Lawh-i-Sultán (Tablet to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh) and the first tablet to Napoleon III.
Themes of the Lawh-i-Sultán
Násiri'd-Dín Sháh was the only monarch to have been closely involved with the Faith of the Báb from the first. He had been informed of its birth soon after the disciples of the Báb began to spread His Faith and he had witnessed its meteoric rise. His was the privilege as Crown Prince of meeting its Author face to face and hearing Him declare in ringing tones to an assembled gathering of the divines and dignitaries of Ádhirbáyján, these majestic words: 'I am, I am, I am the Promised One! I am the One Whose name you have for a thousand years invoked, at Whose mention you have risen, Whose advent you have longed to witness, and the hour of Whose Revelation you have prayed God to hasten. Verily, I say, it is incumbent upon the peoples of both the East and the West to obey My word, and to pledge allegiance to My person.' 1
Having observed the overpowering zeal and enthusiasm of the Bábís, and having watched with fear and dismay the humiliating defeats they had inflicted on his army,* he arose
* In the days of the Báb, the believers defended themselves against their enemies. This resulted in many bloody struggles in which the Bábís triumphed over their adversaries. Bahá'u'lláh has enjoined on His followers not to resort to force when attacked in the path of God. For a more detailed discussion of this subject, see vol. 1, pp. 278-9, and above, p. 258.
1. The Báb, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 21.
with the aid of his ministers and at the instigation of the clergy to wipe out the newly-born community from the land of Persia. The execution of the Báb, the martyrdom of thousands of His followers, the imprisonment of Bahá'u'lláh and His exile to 'Iráq, together with many atrocities which were committed against an oppressed community, all took place during his reign.
It is for this reason that Bahá'u'lláh in one of His Tablets denounces Násiri'd-Dín Sháh in these words:
Among them (kings of the earth) is the King of Persia, who suspended Him Who is the Temple of the Cause (the Báb) in the air, and put Him to death with such cruelty that all created things, and the inmates of Paradise, and the Concourse on high wept for Him. He slew, moreover, some of Our kindred, and plundered Our property, and made Our family captives in the hands of the oppressors. Once and again he imprisoned Me. By God, the True One! None can reckon the things which befell Me in prison, save God, the Reckoner, the Omniscient, the Almighty. Subsequently he banished Me and My family from My country, whereupon We arrived in 'Iráq in evident sorrow. We tarried there until the time when the King of Rúm (Sultán of Turkey) arose against Us, and summoned Us unto the seat of his sovereignty. When We reached it there flowed over Us that whereat the King of Persia rejoiced. Later We entered this Prison, wherein the hands of Our loved ones were torn from the hem of Our robe. In such a manner hath he dealt with Us! 2In the light of these statements, the Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh addressed to Násiri'd-Dín Sháh assumes a special significance. Not only was he familiar with Bahá'u'lláh Himself, whose followers he was persecuting, but because of his religious background he could follow Bahá'u'lláh's reasoning and
2. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 70.
terminology. However, it appears that in revealing this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh chose, in certain parts, to use unusually difficult Arabic words and phrases, so that the monarch might be forced to seek the help of the divines in reading it. And this is exactly what the King did. He passed it on to the divines and requested them to write an answer to it--a task which they did not fulfil.
The Lawh-i-Sultán is the lengthiest Tablet revealed to any monarch. It is partly in Arabic and partly in Persian and is composed with beauty and eloquence. A small portion of it is translated into English by Shoghi Effendi.* Although revealed in Adrianople, this Tablet was sent from 'Akká. A youth of seventeen, Badí', accepting martyrdom, took it to Tihrán and personally handed it to the Sháh. We shall record the life and sacrifice of this youth, 'The Pride of the Martyrs', in the next volume.
In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh invites the monarch to look upon his people with the eyes of loving-kindness and to rule them with justice. He states that both the pomp and grandeur of this world and its abasement shall pass away. He demonstrates its transitory nature by remarking that should one open the grave of a king and that of a pauper, it would be impossible to distinguish the remains of one from the other. In that state there is no difference between rich and poor, between ruler and subject. He teaches that distinction for man lies in his deeds of righteousness and piety.
In several passages Bahá'u'lláh exhorts the King not to fix his attention on this mortal life, reminds him that there were many eminent rulers before him who have departed from this world and that no one remembers them today: their palaces lie in ruins, their treasures are dissipated, and their glory has vanished. Men of learning, scholars, and noblemen, have come in countless numbers and have gone, leaving no trace behind. Their power and influence have been obliterated and their names forgotten.
* Cited in The Promised Day is Come, pp. 40-43 46 and 75
More than once Bahá'u'lláh urges the King to be just, and invites him to judge between Him and His enemies. These are His own words:
Look upon this Youth, O King, with the eyes of justice; judge thou, then, with truth concerning what hath befallen Him. Of a verity, God hath made thee His shadow amongst men, and the sign of His power unto all that dwell on earth. Judge thou between Us and them that have wronged Us without proof and without an enlightening Book. They that surround thee love thee for their own sakes, whereas this Youth loveth thee for thine own sake, and hath had no desire except to draw thee nigh unto the seat of grace, and to turn thee toward the right-hand of justice. Thy Lord beareth witness unto that which I declare.3Persecution of the Bábís
There is another passage in the Tablet concerning those officials who serve the King 'for their own sakes'. Bahá'u'lláh condemns the activities of these men and states that instead of working for the prosperity of the nation, their service to the King consists mainly in denouncing a few souls as Bábís, and then engaging in killing them and plundering their properties.
The history of the Faith clearly demonstrates this fact. In Persia for many decades, the authorities acquired fame and popularity among the people by persecuting the followers of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh. The best way to destroy one's enemy was to accuse him of becoming a Bábí. The onslaught against such a man would be almost instantaneous and often fatal. Before the victim could prove his innocence, he would be faced with the most serious persecution, including death.
Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí has written the comical story of a Siyyid in Isfahán which illustrates this point. He says that in the early days of the Faith in Isfahán, he came in contact with a Siyyid who was a theological student. They became friends and Hájí spoke to him about the Bábí Faith. Soon he accepted the
3. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 41.
Faith and was introduced to a few of the friends and was given some of the Writings of the Báb to read. Later, Hájí heard from an authoritative source that the Siyyid was not a sincere person, but that he was an informer and his real purpose was to find out the identity of the believers so as to pass this information to the enemies. Hájí knew that danger was looming ahead and that the believers would become a target for persecution and martyrdom. He hit on an idea which demonstrates his vigilance as well as his resourcefulness. He decided that the best way to get rid of the Siyyid was to denounce him as a Bábí. Such an accusation was sufficient to drive him out of the city. Concerning this he writes:
I knew that the Siyyid was lodging in the school of Bídábád...I went to the school and informed its head...that the Siyyid was a Bábí and that he had in his possession some of the Bábí writings. At the same time, at my instigation, some one frightened the Siyyid and advised him to be on the alert. The Siyyid was so scared that he left all his books and belongings behind, fled the city and did not return! 4Another story which demonstrates the dangers of being labelled as a Bábí is that of Mullá Muhammad-i-Qá'iní, surnamed Nabíl-i-Akbar.* It is extracted from his spoken chronicle as recorded by his illustrious nephew Shaykh Muhammad 'Alíy-i-Qá'iní. The story took place when Bahá'u'lláh was imprisoned in the Síyáh-Chál of Tihrán and a great campaign to exterminate the Bábís had been mounted by the Government. Nabíl-i-Akbar, a very learned and erudite divine, was not a Bábí at that time. He had arrived in Tihrán at the height of persecutions against the Bábís and was on his way to the cities of Karbilá and Najaf in 'Iráq. While in Tihrán he took up residence in a theological school headed by a certain Shaykh 'Abdu'l-Husayn. This is how he describes his days in Tihrán:
* For more information about Nabíl-i-Akbar, see vol. 1, pp. 91-5.
4. Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, Bihjatu's-Sudúr, pp. 21-3.
Shaykh 'Abdu'l-Husayn [the head of the school] was not informed of divine philosophy and metaphysics.* But being interested in these subjects he used to invite me to dinner in the evenings in order to find out my views and those of other learned philosophers.
* Nabíl-i-Akbar, in his earlier days, had mastered the subjects of divine philosophy and metaphysics. It was later in his life that he went to 'Iráq, became a renowned mujtahid and acquired great fame.
† See God Passes By.
uttered words of salutation. He did not reciprocate my greetings; instead he became angry and ignored me. I asked, 'What is the reason for summoning me here?' He said, 'To carry out the orders of the Sháh.' 'What am I guilty of?' I enquired. 'Is there a greater crime', he replied, 'than being a Bábí, an enemy of religion and government?' 'This is a false accusation against me', I pleaded, 'whoever has, reported me as a Bábí is my enemy and had no intention other than harming me.' I saw that my words did not make any impression upon him. Therefore I did not pursue the matter any further and submitted myself to my fate.
* The clergy had introduced this practice. They taught that if a Muslim touched a Bábí, he would be defiled.
the same school, came to visit me. Later it became apparent that he was a Bábí who had been hiding his faith. Jokingly, he said to me, 'Do you realize that you have become known in this city as a Bábí? The divines and the students call you by the name Bábí, and consider you a member of that community.' I replied, 'But these rumours are without foundation. I know nothing about this community except a mere name, have not read even one line of their writings, and have not met with any of them.' He said, 'In any case you have now become known as a Bábí. People's opinion about you is not going to change whether you read the Writings of the Báb or not. I have come across some of these Writings, but I don't understand them. Since I have found you to be without prejudice and a trustworthy person, endowed with discernment and good taste, I have brought them here with me so that you may read them. I would be grateful if you would tell me your findings and conclusions.' He then took some papers from his pocket, handed them to me and left.
How often knowledge and intelligenceHe then addressed me in these words:
* See p. 74, f.n. (A.T.)
† The Báb.
and his laughter resounded through the room. After that he kept bringing more Writings to me...5The Station of Bahá'u'lláh
Returning to the Lawh-i-Sultán, there is a celebrated passage in which Bahá'u'lláh describes His own Revelation in language of beauty and power:
O king! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. And He bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and for this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of understanding to flow. The learning current amongst men I studied not; their schools I entered not. Ask of the city wherein I dwelt, that thou mayest be well assured that I am not of them who speak falsely. This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred. Can it be still when the tempestuous winds are blowing? Nay, by Him Who is the Lord of all Names and attributes! They move it as they list. The evanescent is as nothing before Him Who is the Ever-Abiding. His all-compelling summons hath reached Me, and caused Me to speak His praise amidst all people. I was indeed as one dead when His behest was uttered. The hand of the will of thy Lord, the Compassionate, the Merciful, transformed Me. Can any one speak forth of his own accord that for which all men, both high and low, will protest against him? Nay, by Him Who taught the Pen the eternal mysteries, save him whom the grace of the Almighty, the All-Powerful, hath strengthened...6These words attest the sublimity of the station of Bahá'u'lláh. For He attributes His Revelation to God alone, proclaims His knowledge to be innate and not acquired, describes His own utter submissiveness to the command of the Almighty
5. Quoted by 'Azízu'lláh Sulaymání, Masábih-i-Hidáyat, vol. I, pp. 436-43.
6. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, pp. 40-41.
and indicates that every act of His is that of God. Any unbiased observer who has spiritual insight may readily discover, from the above quoted passages, the truth of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. For no human being of sound mind and self-motivated, can make such a staggering claim, announce it to the kings, be persecuted as a result and stand by it till the end. Only a Manifestation of God can speak as Bahá'u'lláh did.
There is an interesting comment made by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in connection with the fore-mentioned passage: 'I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been.' He explains:
This is the state of manifestation...it is an intellectual reality, exempt and freed from time, from past, present, and future; it is an explanation, a simile, a metaphor, and is not to be accepted literally; it is not a state that can be comprehended by man. Sleeping and waking is passing from one state to another. Sleeping is the condition of repose, and wakefulness is the condition of movement; sleeping is the state of silence, wakefulness is the state of speech; sleeping is the state of mystery, wakefulness is the state of manifestation.We have previously referred to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's explanation* that a Manifestation of God is always a Manifestation and that
* See vol. 1, p. 208
7. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 79 (Brit.), ch. 16 (U.S.).
|He has within Him all the divine attributes long before He receives the call of Prophethood. In one of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh gives us a glimpse of the stirrings of God's Revelation within Him in His early life. Although we shall never be able to understand fully the reality and all the implications of what took place, nevertheless the story is awe-inspiring. Bahá'u'lláh states8 that once during His childhood, He read* the story of the bloodshed which resulted from the massacre of the tribe of Qurayzah,† as narrated by Mullá Muhammad Báqir-i-Majlisí.‡ He relates how He was overtaken by feelings of intense sadness and grief as a result of reading this episode. At that time He beheld the limitless ocean of God's forgiveness and mercy surging before Him. Then he beseeched God to vouchsafe unto all the peoples of the world that which would establish unity and love among them. He then describes how suddenly on a certain day before dawn, He was overcome by a condition which completely affected His manners, His thoughts and His words. It was a transfiguration which gave Him the tidings of ascendancy and exaltation, and which continued for twelve days. After this He testifies that the ocean of His utterance began to surge,§ and the Sun of Assurance shone forth and He continued in this state until He manifested Himself to man. He further testifies in the same Tablet that in this Dispensation, He has, on the one hand, removed from religion anything which could become the cause of suffering and disunity and, on the other, ordained
* In the days of Bahá'u'lláh, one of the first books children learnt to read was the Qur'án, followed by other books on the Islámic religion and poetry.
† The details are well known in the history of Islám.
‡ A famous divine, the author of a series of books known as Biharu'l-Anvár containing traditions of Islám and other accounts. The Shí'ah cherish this series as an encyclopedia of Shí'ah religious knowledge.
§ God bestows upon His Manifestation the power of His Words. Those who have attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh have testified that when He spoke it was as if an ocean had gushed forth. His words were at once tender and powerful.
8. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Fádil-i-Mázindarání, Asráru'l-Áthár, vol. II, pp. 17-18.
those teachings which would bring about the unity of the human race.
In the Lawh-i-Sultán Bahá'u'lláh informs the King of the exalted station which awaits him should he recognize the Source of Divine Revelation in this day. He addresses him in these words:
O King! Wert thou to incline thine ear unto the shrill of the Pen of Glory and the cooing of the Dove of Eternity which, on the branches of the Lote-Tree beyond which there is no passing, uttereth praises to God, the Maker of all names and Creator of earth and heaven, thou wouldst attain unto a station from which thou wouldst behold in the world of being naught save the effulgence of the Adored One, and wouldst regard thy sovereignty as the most contemptible of thy possessions, abandoning it to whosoever might desire it, and setting thy face toward the Horizon aglow with the light of His countenance. Neither wouldst thou ever be willing to bear the burden of dominion save for the purpose of helping thy Lord, the Exalted, the Most High. Then would the Concourse on high bless thee. O how excellent is this most sublime station, couldst thou ascend thereunto through the power of a sovereignty recognized as derived from the Name of God!...9The Challenge to the Divines
In this Tablet to the Sháh, Bahá'u'lláh has made a proposition of the utmost significance, a proposition which no Manifestation of God in earliest days had ever produced. He states:
Would that the world-adorning wish of His Majesty might decree that this Servant be brought face to face with the divines of the age, and produce proofs and testimonies in the presence of His Majesty the Sháh! This Servant is ready, and taketh hope in God, that such a gathering may be
9. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, pp. 41-2.
convened in order that the truth of the matter may be made clear and manifest before His Majesty the Sháh. It is then for thee to command, and I stand ready before the throne of thy sovereignty. Decide, then, for Me or against Me.10With this challenging statement Bahá'u'lláh has not fallen short of His duty to establish the truth of His Cause among the peoples of the world.
In this Tablet He speaks of the divines, points out their insincerity and lack of understanding, quotes certain traditions of Islám which foreshadow the wickedness of the divines in the latter days, and states that the following passages revealed by Him in The Hidden Words are addressed to such people who are outwardly noted for their learning and piety, but who are inwardly subservient to their passions and lust:
'O ye that are foolish, yet have a name to be wise! Wherefore do ye wear the guise of the shepherd, when inwardly ye have become wolves, intent upon My flock? Ye are even as the star, which riseth ere the dawn, and which, though it seem radiant and luminous, leadeth the wayfarers of My city astray into the paths of perdition.'
10. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, p. 46.
11. Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 16.
The Hidden Words, Persian no. 24, 25, 28, 30
The 'Sword of Wisdom and Utterance'
In the Lawh-i-Sultán Bahá'u'lláh tries to dispel some of the doubts and misgivings in the mind of the Sháh concerning the activities of the believers. We must recall that since the birth of the Bábí Faith, the authorities in Persia had been fearful of the influence of the Bábí community. The manner in which the followers of the Báb defended themselves against the onslaught of their adversaries had earned them the reputation of being men of fierce courage and immense self-sacrifice. At the same time the majority of the people were apprehensive of their intentions in furthering the interests of their Faith. The Government had accused the believers of being men of violence ever since a few irresponsible Bábís had made an attempt on the life of the Sháh in 1852. Bahá'u'lláh assures the King in convincing terms that since His arrival in 'Iráq, He has exhorted the members of the community to abandon fighting and strife, to lay down the sword, and to conquer the cities of the hearts of men with the sword of wisdom and of utterance. Bahá'u'lláh quotes passages from one of His Tablets in which He counsels the friends that it is better for them to be slain in the path of God than to slay. He states that people have misunderstood the meaning of the word 'victory' which appears in heavenly Books. Victory is not won by fighting; it is achieved by good deeds and a stainless life.
In this connection it is important to note that the followers of the Báb who defended themselves against the onslaught of the enemy, did so because of the special circumstances under which the Faith of the Báb was born and His Message propagated. To appreciate this, we must become familiar with the conditions prevailing at that time in Persia within the Shí'ah community, and the nature of the Revelation of the Báb.
Let us recall that all the Manifestations of God prior to the Revelation of the Báb appeared within the cycle of prophecy
which began with Adam,* as the first Manifestation of God of that cycle, and culminated with the Dispensation of Muhammad who was the Seal of the Prophets. They, one and all, prophesied the advent of the Day of God and recounted their visions of the 'Glory of God' manifesting Himself to mankind.
The main objects of the Báb in revealing Himself were to herald the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh and prepare the people for His coming, to close the cycle of prophecy and to open the cycle of fulfilment when the 'Glory of God' would be manifested as foretold in the heavenly Books.† Islám, the last Dispensation in the chain of the Prophetic Cycle, was therefore more closely involved with the Revelation of the Báb than any other religion.
The Báb appeared among the people of Islám. His Message was eagerly anticipated by them, as both Shí'ah and Sunní expected the appearance of the Qá'im or Mihdí respectively. This expectation was based on the prophecies of Muhammad and the Imáms, especially the latter who had left thousands of traditions concerning the appearance of the Qá'im.‡ To the Islámic community, the coming of the Promised One was real and had been explicitly foretold. The Shí'ah among whom the Báb appeared lauded the glory of the Qá'im in their meetings, fervently prayed for His advent and rose to their feet at the mention of His name. That the Báb had a special link with Islám is not due merely to the fact that He was born a Muslim and was Himself a Siyyid, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, but lies in His special Mission to terminate the Dispensation of Muhammad and abrogate its laws. So tremendous was this function that its mere contemplation cast terror into the hearts and souls of men in Persia. Even some of the followers of the Báb, those who had not fully appreciated the significance
* According to Bahá'í belief the Biblical story of Adam is allegorical and He was the first Manifestation of God in recorded history (see Some Answered Questions by 'Abdu'l-Bahá).
† See pp. 16-18.
‡ See vol. 1, pp. 193-4.
and potency of His Revelation, lost their faith when they heard the annulment of Qur'ánic Law being proclaimed at the conference of Badasht* by a distinguished band of His disciples a little more than four years after the Declaration of the Báb. To abrogate the twelve-hundred-year-old law of Islám was not a light matter. People had cherished it for centuries and had shaped their lives and conduct in accord with its provisions. To annul these by a stroke of the Pen needed not only divine power, but also divine wisdom and mercy.
The Manifestations of God do not change the laws of old suddenly or prematurely, nor do they reveal new laws until their followers are ready and able to carry them out. Bahá'u'lláh explains:
Know of a certainty that in every Dispensation the light of Divine Revelation has been vouchsafed to men in direct proportion to their spiritual capacity. Consider the sun. How feeble its rays the moment it appeareth above the horizon. How gradually its warmth and potency increase as it approacheth its zenith, enabling meanwhile all created things to adapt themselves to the growing intensity of its light. How steadily it declines until it reacheth its setting point. Were it all of a sudden to manifest the energies latent within it, it would no doubt cause injury to all created things...In like manner, if the Sun of Truth were suddenly to reveal, at the earliest stages of its manifestation, the full measure of the potencies which the providence of the Almighty hath bestowed upon it, the earth of human understanding would waste away and be consumed; for men's hearts would neither sustain the intensity of its revelation, nor be able to mirror forth the radiance of its light. Dismayed and overpowered, they would cease to exist.12Through His mercy, the Manifestation of God introduces new laws and ordinances gradually, and leads His followers from one world into another, stage by stage, knowing too
* For more information see The Dawn-Breakers.
12. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, 'The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh', The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 117.
well that they are attached to their age-long traditions and habits. For instance, when Muhammad appeared, the Arabs consumed intoxicating drinks to excess. But the Prophet did not forbid drinking at once. At first, He merely remarked that it had advantages and disadvantages but stated that the harm such drinks inflicted on them was far greater than the good. Later in His ministry He forbade those who were drunk to take part in congregational prayer and, later still, when His followers had acquired maturity, He denounced drinking categorically and enjoined on them to abstain.*
The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh have likewise revealed the laws of religion at those times in Their ministries when Their followers were ready to receive them. The Báb did not reveal the bulk of His laws until half-way through His ministry. Bahá'u'lláh also revealed the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Book of His Laws, when His ministry had run half its course, and even then, it was some years before He released a copy of this Book to His followers.
Another feature of the Revelation of the Báb, relating to this subject, is the fact that His Dispensation was destined to be very short in duration and was to be superseded by the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. This meant that the Báb formulated only those laws and teachings which were vital to the progress of His Cause during a short space of time. Knowing that His Revelation was only a stepping-stone to a universal Revelation, He deliberately refrained from touching upon those teachings which were premature and which were ordained later by Bahá'u'lláh as His followers acquired capacity for them.
One such teaching practised in Islám and which the Báb did not alter because of the conditions prevailing at the time, was that of taking up arms and defending oneself for the sake of one's religion. That is why the Bábís took part in many battles which were defensive in nature. They were seldom involved in an offensive whether individually or collectively. The struggles of Mázindarán, Zanján and Nayríz are clear examples.†
* See Qur'án ii. 219, iv. 43 and v. 93-4.
[timing of revelation] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Introduction, p. 8
From the early days of His ministry, Bahá'u'lláh on numerous occasions counselled the Bábís to abandon this age-old practice of fighting for one's religion. But it was some years before the believers realized that a new day had dawned and that they were to sheathe their swords for good. Eventually Bahá'u'lláh, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, prohibited the carrying of arms by individuals unless it was essential.
The Sufferings of Bahá'u'lláh
In the following passages in the Lawh-i-Sultán Bahá'u'lláh dwells on the sufferings which He had endured in the path of God:
I have seen, O Sháh, in the path of God what eye hath not seen nor ear heard...How numerous the tribulations which have rained, and will soon rain, upon Me! I advance with My face set towards Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Bounteous, whilst behind Me glideth the serpent. Mine eyes have rained down tears until My bed is drenched. I sorrow not for Myself, however. By God! Mine head yearneth for the spear out of love for its Lord. I never passed a tree, but Mine heart addressed it saying: 'O would that thou wert cut down in My name, and My body crucified upon thee, in the path of My Lord!'...By God! Though weariness lay Me low, and hunger consume Me, and the bare rock be My bed, and My fellows the beasts of the field, I will not complain, but will endure patiently as those endued with constancy and firmness have endured patiently, through the power of God, the Eternal King and Creator of the nations, and will render thanks unto God under all conditions. We pray that, out of His bounty--exalted be He--He may release, through this imprisonment, the necks of men from chains and fetters, and cause them to turn, with sincere faces, towards His Face, Who is the Mighty, the Bounteous. Ready is He to answer whosoever calleth upon Him, and nigh is He unto such as commune with Him.13Bahá'u'lláh also reminds the King that all the Prophets and
13. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, pp. 42-3.
[carrying arms] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶159
Messengers of God have suffered at the hands of their own people, and yet no one reflects on the cause of such behaviour. He speaks of Muhammad and names some of His enemies who strenuously opposed and denounced Him. He also tells the story of Jesus and the cruel judgement passed on Him by religious leaders.
In the Lawh-i-Sultán, Bahá'u'lláh dwells on the trials and persecutions which He Himself has endured in the path of God. He speaks about His imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál, recounts the sufferings which were inflicted upon Him in that dark and pestilential subterranean dungeon, recalls His deliverance from that prison through the power of God, and His exile to 'Iráq by the order of the King, after His innocence had been established. He further acquaints the Sháh with conditions in 'Iráq: the opposition of the Shí'ah clergy, their plotting and vicious attacks which resulted in His advising some of His companions to seek the protection of the Governor of 'Iráq.* He describes His arrival in Constantinople, and foretells His future exile to and imprisonment in 'Akká, a city described by Him in these words:
According to what they say, it is the most desolate of the cities of the world, the most unsightly of them in appearance, the most detestable in climate, and the foulest in water. It is as though it were the metropolis of the owl.14In a passage in the Lawh-i-Sultán written with great eloquence and power, Bahá'u'lláh prophesies in unequivocal language the triumph of His Cause when people will enter it in troops.
He declares that in past Dispensations, God established the ascendancy of His Cause through afflictions and sufferings. He prays that in this day these calamities may also act as a buckler to protect His Faith, and makes the following statement concerning trials and tribulations suffered in the path of God:
* This is a reference to those companions whom Bahá'u'lláh advised to enrol themselves as subjects of the Ottoman Government.
14. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 186.
By Him Who is the Truth! I fear no tribulation in His path, nor any affliction in My love for Him. Verily God hath made adversity as a morning dew upon His green pasture, and a wick for His lamp which lighteth earth and heaven.l5The Story of a Martyr
Concerning the believers in this Dispensation, Bahá'u'lláh states that they regard their religion to be the true Faith of God and therefore have renounced their lives in His path and for His sake. He affirms that this act alone is evidence of the truth of their Cause. For no person will normally renounce his life unless he is insane. Bahá'u'lláh, however, dismisses the charge of insanity on the grounds that it cannot be brought against countless men of distinguished conduct and virtuous character who have sacrified their lives in the path of God. He describes some of the persecutions which were, for twenty years, inflicted upon the community by order of the King. So fierce had been the onslaught that there was no land which had not been dyed with their blood! How many children had been made fatherless, how many fathers had lost their children, and how many mothers had not dared, through fear and dread, to mourn over their slaughtered children! Yet, He testifies, the fire of divine love which burned within the hearts of these people was so bright that even if they were to be hewn in pieces, they would not forswear the love of their Lord.
The history of the Faith depicts the lives and martyrdom of thousands of believers throughout Persia, and amply testifies to their faith and detachment, their heroism and self-sacrifice. It also vividly portrays the harrowing circumstances in which the families of martyrs suffered, and recounts the excruciating afflictions which assailed them from every direction. The stories of the martyrs in various parts of Persia have been written in detail and some have been published. A great wave of sadness descends upon the heart when one reads them. For instance, the accounts of the suffering and persecution heaped upon the
15. Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 17.
martyrs and their families, as portrayed in the History of the Martyrs of Yazd, are so heart-rending that seldom can one read even a few pages without being overcome with deep sorrow and agonizing grief.
The martyrdom of Hájí Mírzáy-i-Halabí-Sáz (tinsmith), one of the most devoted followers of Bahá'u'lláh in Yazd, is an episode from that history. It happened during one of the most grievous upheavals in Yazd in the summer of 1903 when a great number of Bahá'ís were savagely martyred within a few days:
On the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad [17 Rabí'u'l-Avval], a religious festival, a group of men gathered outside the house of Hájí Mírzá. For a considerable time they viciously pelted the door of the house with stones and broke all the windows. They behaved with such vulgarity that eventually Hájí Mírzá appeared on the roof of the house* above the porch and demanded an explanation. Some of the men felt embarrassed as soon as they saw Hájí Mírzá; they bowed their heads in shame and left. Some of the younger ones continued their acts of violence but were eventually calmed by Hájí Mírzá's words and left also...However they returned again after sunset and continued throwing stones into the courtyard for about three hours.
* Houses in Yazd have flat roofs easily accessible by a staircase from inside. (A.T.)
† Son of the illustrious Hájí Muhammad-Taqí, the Vakílu'd-Dawlih, a cousin of the Báb. (A.T.)
‡ Literally, 'The Dawning-Place of the mention of God', a Bahá'í House of Worship. Although there were not 'Houses of Worship' in Yazd, the believers gathered at someone's home and referred to it as the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár. Bahá'u'lláh has particularly indicated the merits of attending the service before dawn; prayers said at that time have a special potency. (A.T.)
before sunrise. As everybody was about to go, Hájí Mírzá expressed a desire to bid farewell to them all, as he thought that he might never see them again.* He embraced everyone and said farewell to them. Hájí Mírzá Mahmúd advised Hájí Mírzá not to go home for a while but to wait and see what would transpire during the day. But he went home saying 'Whatever is God's will, will happen.'
* The upheaval in Yazd, although it lasted only a few days, witnessed the martyrdom of many people. Every Bahá'í family was engulfed in its fury and no one felt safe. (A.T.)
† Violent men in those days carried a large steel chain as a weapon. A few lashings of the chain often caused serious injuries. (A.T.)
‡ Women in those days did not usually become involved in public affairs. They led a sheltered life and in public wore a chádur (a large piece of cloth which covers the head and all other clothing and reaches almost to the ground). It was against the laws of religion for a man who was not married to a woman, or not a close relative, to see her face, how much more shocking to touch her body. The fact that Hájí Mírzá's wife, wearing her chádur, pushed her away through a crowd of men, is indicative of her utter desperation and distress. (A.T.)
screaming and frightened to death. God knows what the children went through. The eldest son, 'Ináyatu'lláh, was eleven, the eldest daughter, Ridván, was nine and the youngest, Túbá, was six years old. After a while, the attackers succeeded in separating husband and wife. Although his body was battered and covered with blood from head to toe, Hájí Mírzá was dragged towards the home of the Imám-Jum'ih,* accompanied by a crowd which by now numbered about two hundred. No sooner did they drag him a few steps then his wife managed to throw herself on his body again, but the crowd removed her. Nevertheless she managed to cling to him yet again. This time they beat her harder than before until she fell unconscious in the street. Then they took Hájí Mírzá away. In the meantime a number of people had entered the house and were busy plundering everything they could find...
* The religious dignitary of the city who leads men in prayer in the mosque. It was the practice to bring any one accused of being a Bahá'í to the presence of a mujtahid, where he would be required to recant his faith if he wished to be set free. The mujtahids would pass the death sentence on those who refused to recant. But quite often in that upheaval in Yazd, the attackers killed their victims before going through this procedure. (A.T.)
† This act was designed to further humiliate the wife of Hájí Mírzá, as it was considered grossly unchaste if a woman displayed her hair in public. (A.T.)
she could to comfort them, and carried their mother on her back to her home.* There she prepared a herbal infusion, gave some to the children and administered some to their mother, who regained consciousness after about two hours. But the children had cried so much that they were exhausted.
* In this incident Rubábih showed great courage in going to help the victim. Normally in such circumstances, no one dared to extend assistance to a Bahá'í, for he himself would then be accused of being one. In this case, it appears that Rubábih, herself an outcast because she was a prostitute, did not fear retaliation from the public. (A.T.)
† Prince Mahmúd Mírzá, the Jalálu'd-Dawlih, a son of Prince Mas'úd Mírzá, the Zillu's-Sultán. He tried to stop the massacre of Bahá'ís but failed. For three days he lost effective control and during this time many lost their lives. Some years later he was in London at the time when 'Abdu'l-Bahá visited that city. He went especially to attain the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, threw himself at His feet and asked for forgiveness.(A.T.)
‡ In the massacre of 1903 in Yazd, it was mainly Bahá'í women who acted as news carriers and messengers. It was not easy for the public to detect their identity, because they wore veils. (A.T.)
suring her that Hájí Mírzá was now in a safe place and would return home in the evening. This news brought some relief. Rubábih although fearful that she might be attacked, managed to bring some food for the children and their mother. In the meantime, since the house had no door, women and children* came in frequently to see if there was anything left to take away.
* It was against the principle of chastity if men went into someone's house without giving ample warning to allow the women to retire to the inner apartments, or to wear their veils. But women could walk in freely. (A.T.)
† A mosque in Yazd. (A.T.)
back and gave it to a certain Áqá Mullá Muhammad-'Alí* to deliver it to his wife and children...In the meantime the executioner had tied his own apron on Hájí's head, but blood was pouring out and he was becoming weaker...until he expired. Thus he attained to the exalted station of martyrdom. The executioner unwound the apron from Hájí Mírzá's head and placed it on his face...
* He was one of the believers who were taken into custody by order of the Imám-Jum'ih. These men were there when Hájí Mírzá arrived and watched him die. (A.T.)
† The Afnán family in Yazd built a private cemetery not far from the Castle. This was later offered for use as a Bahá'í burial ground. Bahá'u'lláh designated it the Buq'atu'l-Khadrá (The Verdant Spot). Several of the Afnáns, Bahá'í martyrs, and eminent Bahá'ís are buried there. The cemetery is no longer in use. (A.T.)
she went through! She wept ceaselessly, and returned home broken and shattered. The children, on the other hand, were waiting for their mother to bring their father back. But when they saw her alone and in such a state of anguish, they realized what had happened. Their heart-rending cries and wails of lamentation could be heard in all directions. We can feel the agony of their hearts when we reflect on their condition. The house was completely empty, the father had been killed, the mother wounded and the people had arisen against them.
* Public cisterns with cooling towers built in each district of the city used to supply drinking water to the public. People filled jugs of water at the cistern and took them home. (A.T.)
† The chief officer of a district.
mother. There was no one to look after them except an old grandmother who was herself an invalid.
* In many cities, especially in Yazd, the enemies of the Faith often gathered outside the houses of the believers where they shouted curses and execrated the names of the Founders of the Faith. These fanatical and savage outbursts throughout the years, and especially during the massacre of 1903, cast terror into the hearts of the inhabitants of these houses. (A.T.)
'Ináyatu'lláh, that he became seriously ill and lay in the corner of a room. The other children suffered so much that they came very close to death. They often asked their grandmother 'What have we done that people kill us?' No pen can bear to write the agony which the children went through...Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, the author of the History of the Martyrs of Yazd, concludes the account of Hájí Mírzá's martyrdom with the following words of his widow. She recounted to him the agony of her heart when she returned home and found her children almost lifeless.
'God is my witness, when I arrived home, I saw three children whom I could not recognize as my own. I wanted to know where my children were; my mother said to me: "These are your children!" When I was assured that they were indeed my children, I was plunged into such a state of agony and distress that all my sufferings of the past paled into insignificance.' She said to me, 'Even now as I recount the story after all these years, my whole body is seized with fear and trembling.' 17The same author, in his unpublished 'History of the Faith in the Province of Yazd', has written the following account giving us another glimpse of the sufferings inflicted upon the children of Hájí Mírzá while their mother was kept in custody:
Zaynal-i-'Arab was a neighbour of Hájí Mírzá. The roof of his house was joined to that of Hájí Mírzá's house. One evening during the upheaval of Yazd, Zaynal was told by some violent men in Mír-Chaqmáq* that, since he was a neighbour of Hájí Mírzá's, they suspected him of being a
* An important square in Yazd with a famous mosque and minaret. In those days it was a centre of religious festivities.
16. Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, History of the Martyrs of Yazd, p. 95 ff.
17. ibid., p. 110.
Bahá'í. The fact however was that Zaynal, far from being a Bahá'í, was a vile man and foremost among the trouble-makers of Yazd. When such an accusation was levelled against him, he became so angry that he decided to go and kill the wife of Hájí Mírzá and her three children. He went home immediately, took up his revolver, tied a cartridge belt around his waist and went up the stairs onto the roof* of his own house. From there he crossed to the roof of Hájí Mírzá's house and began to shout abuse and utter curses. He loaded the gun and announced in a loud voice in vulgar terms his intention of going down the steps to kill the...children of Hájí Mírzá. At that time the children were sitting in a corner around their old grandmother. The ugly figure of Zaynal, shouting abuse and standing on the roof with a revolver in his hand, frightened the innocent children terribly. They cried, screamed and begged.
* See p. 358, f.n.
are a follower of the Prophet, how can you do such a thing to these innocent children?'Bahá'u'lláh's First Tablet to Napoleon III
This Tablet was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople and forwarded to the Emperor through one of his ministers. Shoghi Effendi writes concerning it:
In His first Tablet Bahá'u'lláh, wishing to test the sincerity of the Emperor's motives, and deliberately assuming a meek and unprovocative tone, had, after expatiating on the sufferings He had endured, addressed him the following words: 'Two statements graciously uttered by the king of the age have reached the ears of these wronged ones. These pronouncements are, in truth, the king of all pronouncements, the like of which have never been heard from any sovereign. The first was the answer given the Russian Government when it inquired why the war (Crimean) was waged against it. Thou didst reply: "The cry of the oppressed who, without guilt or blame, were drowned in the Black Sea wakened me at dawn. Wherefore, I took up arms against thee." These oppressed ones, however, have suffered a greater wrong, and are in greater distress. Whereas
18. Hájí Muhammad-Táhir-i-Málmírí, unpublished 'History of the Faith in the Province of Yazd'.
the trials inflicted upon those people lasted but one day, the troubles borne by these servants have continued for twenty and five years, every moment of which has held for us a grievous affliction. The other weighty statement, which was indeed a wondrous statement manifested to the world, was this: "Ours is the responsibility to avenge the oppressed and succour the helpless." The fame of the Emperor's justice and fairness hath brought hope to a great many souls. It beseemeth the king of the age to inquire into the condition of such as have been wronged, and it behooveth him to extend his care to the weak. Verily, there hath not been, nor is there now, on earth any one as oppressed as we are, or as helpless as these wanderers.' 19In another passage Shoghi Effendi writes:
Bahá'u'lláh's previous Message, forwarded through one of the French ministers to the Emperor, had been accorded a welcome the nature of which can be conjectured from the words recorded in the 'Epistle to the Son of the Wolf': 'To this (first Tablet), however, he did not reply. After Our arrival in the Most Great Prison there reached Us a letter from his minister, the first part of which was in Persian, and the latter in his own handwriting. In it he was cordial, and wrote the following: "I have, as requested by you, delivered your letter, and until now have received no answer. We have, however, issued the necessary recommendations to our Minister in Constantinople and our consuls in those regions. If there be anything you wish done, inform us, and we will carry it out." From his words it became apparent that he understood the purpose of this Servant to have been a request for material assistance.' 20It is reported that upon reading it the Emperor flung down the Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh and stated 'If this man is God, I am two Gods!'
Soon after His arrival in 'Akká, Bahá'u'lláh despatched a most challenging Tablet to Napoleon. We shall write about this Tablet in the next volume.
19. Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day Is Come, pp. 51-2.
20. ibid., p. 51.
[To this, however, he did not reply...] Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 45